Ersatz Submarine Tending, Coming to an Atoll Near You
With thousands of uninhabited and sparsely inhabited islands, atolls, shoals, and reefs scattered across the Western Pacific, the U.S. Navy is testing out ways to forward supply submarines in what could be termed “an expeditionary setting.” As SSNs, SSGNs and even SSBNs for that matter are largely only limited in their endurance by consumables like food and morale items (other than torpedos and Tomahawks), the idea is to allow ships other than large and usually immobile submarine tenders to resupply them if the pressure is on.
Earlier this month the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Key West (SSN 722) conducted such a “mobile logistics demonstration” with the MSC-manned Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) in Apra Harbor, Guam.
The demonstration, which involved Key West mooring alongside Byrd, was the first overnight mooring between a U.S. submarine and a dry cargo class ship. Dry cargo class ships are responsible for providing logistic lifts to deliver cargo (ammunition, food, limited quantities of fuel, repair parts and ship store items) to U.S. and allied ships at sea.
“This demonstration confirms the capability of a T-AKE to receive a forward-deployed submarine independent of external entities,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Jack, the operations officer on the staff of Commander, Submarine Squadron (CSS) 15. “This ultimately increases the submarine force’s sustained lethality in the Indo-PACOM area.”
In addition to being the first overnight mooring, the demonstration showcased the first time water facilities were moved from a submarine to a T-AKE.