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USS Vulcan (AR-5) on 10 January 1945
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        VULCAN (AR-5)
Design:        Navy AR-5
Displacement (tons):        9,140 light, 16,200 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        529.3' oa, 520.0' pp x 73.3' e x 23.3' lim.
Original Armament:        4-5"/38 (1941: AR-5)
Later armaments:        4-5"/38 12-20mm (1942: AR-5);
4-5"/38 4-40mmT 24>23-20mm (1943-44: all); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT 8<14-20mmT (1946-56: all); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT (1957: AR-8);
4-5"/38 (1957-59: all); 3-5"/38 (1972-4: AR-6); 4-5"/38 4-20mmS (1975-76: AR-5);
none (1972-74: AR 7-8); 4-20mmS (1975-79: all)
Complement:        1032 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        19.2
Propulsion (HP):        11,000
Machinery:        NYSB turbines (Allis-Chalmers in AR 6-8), 2 screws

AR Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
5 VULCAN 1 Aug 39 New York SB 26 Dec 39 14 Dec 40 16 Jun 41
6 AJAX 9 Sep 40 Los Angeles SB & DD 7 May 41 22 Aug 42 30 Oct 42
7 HECTOR 4 Nov 40 Los Angeles SB & DD 28 Jul 41 11 Nov 42 7 Feb 44
8 JASON 4 Nov 40 Los Angeles SB & DD 9 Mar 42 3 Apr 43 19 Jun 44

AR Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
5 VULCAN 30 Sep 91 28 Jul 92 1 Feb 99 MA/T 2006
6 AJAX 31 Dec 86 16 May 89 23 May 97 Sold --
7 HECTOR 31 Mar 87 19 Aug 94 20 Apr 89 Trf. --
8 JASON 24 Jun 95 24 Jun 95 31 Mar 00 MA/T 2006

Class Notes:
FY 1940 (AR-5), 1941 (AR 6-8). On 30 Jun 38 CNO directed the construction of AR-5 as the only large auxiliary vessel in the annual building program for FY 1940. AR 6-8 were part of a large group of auxiliaries whose construction or acquisition was directed in the 70% Expansion Program on 5 Aug 40 along with many combatant ships. This program was the second increment of the Two Ocean Navy mobilization effort. Two additional repair ships, AR 15-16, were ordered on 19 Feb 44 to the AR-5 design, but they were reordered on 13 Apr 44 as C3's of the AR-13 class (q.v.). The length of AR 6-7 was recorded as 529.4' and the length of AR-8 was listed as 530.0'.

On 27 Sep 33 the Secretary of the Navy wrote to the Navy's General Board, stating that the latest military characteristics of naval auxiliaries had been drawn up in 1914-1917 and directing that these characteristics be brought up to date. At that time the Navy was preparing for a significant revival of combatant construction under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934 and realized that its existing auxiliaries, nearly all built during World War I, would soon be inadequate to support the expanding fleet. On 21 Dec 33 the Board forwarded to CNO a tentative revision of the characteristics for repair ships with a request for comments and recommendations. At about the same time it forwarded characteristics for the other types of large auxiliary vessels that the Navy had built between 1914 and 1917: destroyer tenders (AD), ammunition ships (AE), provision storeships (AF), hospital ships (AH), transports (AP), submarine tenders (AS), and oilers (AO) , and it laid down a ten-year program for peacetime auxiliary vessel construction. (Wartime requirements would be handled by conversions of merchant ships.) The repair ship was to be able to meet probable normal demands for any repairs afloat required by battleships and cruisers, have a sustained speed of at least 15 knots and an endurance of 6,000 miles at that speed, twin-screw main propulsion machinery, a main battery of 4-5" or 6" guns, and at least one and preferably two 20-ton capacity booms. On 11 Jun 34 the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) proposed a deep load draft of 24' to 26'. The Bureau also cited the 16 knot speed of MEDUSA (AR-1) as the basis for its recommendation of 16.5 knots, for which modern machinery would permit attaining an endurance of up to 10,000 miles.

The General Board on 8 Jan 35 issued its final characteristics for repair ships, which included the draft, speed, and endurance recommended by BuC&R. The new characteristics specified that a single purpose main battery (without antiaircraft capability) was sufficient and indicated that if two 20-ton booms were fitted one should preferably be forward and one aft. The previous specification of twin screws was dropped. CNO circulated these characteristics on 15 Feb 35 to forces afloat for comment. On 15 Apr 35 Commander Scouting Force noted that a fleet base once established would be a tempting objective of air attacks and recommended providing dual-purpose guns. He noted that the percentage of time when a repair ship lying in an advance base would be subject to air attacks would probably greatly exceed that during which it would be subject to attack by surface craft. The Bureau of Ordnance stated on 8 Oct 35 that it recommended and was prepared to furnish a main battery of four 5"/38 dual-purpose guns controlled by one Mark 33 director. CinCUS on 19 Jun 35 added a recommendation for higher speed, noting that Fleet Problem XVI, then underway, had shown that it was of the greatest value. He added that if the lower 16.5 knot speed specified by the General Board were adopted it must always be available, meaning that excess boiler power would be needed and the ship should have enough boilers so that one could be under overhaul at all times. In response the Bureau of Engineering explained on 20 Sep 35 that its practice was to install power 25% in excess of that required to propel the vessel loaded, with clean bottom and in good weather at the specified speed, and that for proposed repair ships and tenders three or four boilers were being considered and that an additional margin of 20% would be included to allow for boiler maintenance.

On 12 Feb 36 BuC&R forwarded to CNO for consideration and circulation to forces afloat a preliminary general arrangement plan for the proposed repair ship that incorporated nearly all of the recommendations received up to that date that were consistent with the General Board characteristics of January 1935 (which may have been re-circulated in December). The Bureau noted that the repair ship was scheduled for the third year of the Department's tentative auxiliary building program (1939) and as such did not have high priority but added that the design had progressed to a stage where its general layout could be shown. The design called for a ship of over 15,000 tons with a waterline length of 524 feet, beam of 71 feet, and draft between 24 and 25 feet. Following the recently approved modifications of the characteristics for destroyer and submarine tenders the ship, twin screws were provided, and the dual-purpose gun battery offered by the Bureau of Ordnance was incorporated. In the new repair ship, two 45,000 pound electric rotating cranes were provided aft and one on the centerline forward at the mid-length of the ship's well deck. (On MEDUSA a well deck amidships provided space for loading stores, facilitated access to ships alongside, and served as a boat gangway.) In addition to the cranes, aircraft support features included a 3,000 gallon supply of aviation gasoline and a clear space on the upper deck aft where a patrol plane of the largest size could be placed in an emergency.

The Navy's two active repair ships, VESTAL and MEDUSA, both provided detailed commentary on the design. The officers of MEDUSA, the Navy's only purpose-built repair ship, also offered their opinion that the allocation and assignment of spaces in MEDUSA had been found to be highly satisfactory while the Bureau's design had some serious weaknesses and recommended that the Bureau replace its design with one based on MEDUSA lengthened 60 feet amidships. On 15 Jun 36 CNO reviewed the recommendations received from the fleet and rejected those that departed from those of the General Board characteristics, notably increased speed. He also noted that the substitution of double purpose for single purpose guns, as recommended by the fleet, might appear desirable but rejected it because it involved a complex fire control instead of pointer fire, greater demand on power supply, more interference with the primary duty of a repair ship, and "other unfavorable factors." BuC&R stated on 26 Jun 36 that it would file this correspondence and refer to it "when opportunity permits taking the design of the Repair Ship again in hand."

Funds for the first ship of the class, VULCAN, were initially included by Congress on 25 Jun 38 in the Second Deficiency Appropriation act for FY 1939 as planned in the Navy's 1936 auxiliary program and on 2 Nov 38 the General Board issued new characteristics for this ship. These largely repeated the earlier characteristics except that they specified that the ship was not to exceed 9,500 tons light displacement (implying a full load displacement of over 15,000 tons), stated that the hull design was to be the standard adopted for destroyer and submarine tenders (which would have eliminated any well deck in the earlier design), limited the draft to 24 feet if practicable, and changed the main battery to 4-5"/38 dual purpose guns in centerline single mounts. The speed remained "at least 16.5 knots sustained." BuC&R circulated a general arrangement plan based on these characteristics to CNO, the bureaus, and forces afloat on 7 Dec 38. It noted that the lines of the ship were the same as used for AD-14 but that the full load displacement of AR-5, at 15,000 tons, would be 2,000 tons less than the tenders because of the absence of the cargo ammunition load and the torpedo defense bulkhead provided in the AD's to protect it. The full load draft was 23 feet. The AR had the same separation of machinery spaces as in the AD. The only significant change subsequently made to this design was the elimination of flagship facilities.

VULCAN was ordered in August 1939 under the fiscal 1940 program (having slipped from 1939) and was laid down in December 1939. The Navy's 1936 program called for a second ship two years after the first (in 1941) but the war emergency led to the construction of additional units. On 9 Jan 40 the General Board issued characteristics for repair ships to follow VULCAN and, recognizing the savings that would result from duplication or near duplication of the current design, made only minor changes, reducing the specified light displacement to 8,500 tons and indicating that all of the 5" guns were to be fitted with weather shields. Subsequently, as part of an urgent navy program to add splinter protection to its ships, special treatment steel (STS) protective shields (tubs) were added around all four gun positions, and VULCAN was completed with these. (DIXIE and PRAIRIE (AD 14-15) and FULTON (AS-11) also received them.) In October 1941 the Bureau of Ships directed that the tubs be omitted from AR 6-8, and on 6 Apr 42 it directed that the Mark 25 weather shields allocated to their 5" guns have one-half inch of STS added in accordance with plans then in preparation.

JASON (AR-8) was completed as a heavy hull repair ship (ARH-1) and retained that classification until 9 Sep 57. In 1934-35 Navy mobilization planners had developed the concept of a specialized type of repair ship, Heavy Hull Repair Ships (ARH). They argued that, if the fleet were operating in an area at a considerable distance from dry docking facilities, some means had to be provided to make a damaged ship sufficiently seaworthy to enable it to reach a repair yard, or in cases of minor damage, to make repairs on the spot. On 15 Nov 35 the Bureau of Construction and Repair forwarded to the Naval Districts plans for the conversion to Heavy Hull Repair Ships (XARH) in the event of a national emergency of the large 527-foot freighters ANDREA F. LUCKENBACH (ID-4062) and LEWIS LUCKENBACH (ID-4148). The Bureau distributed updated plans on 10 Oct 40 but the ships were not converted. On 20 October 1940 CNO wrote that the time had come for the General Board to determine the characteristics for a heavy hull repair ship. He elaborated on this request on 10 December, noting that the concept developed in the 1930s for a new-construction ARH was too large (20,000 tons or more) and specialized to be of use in normal times and instead recommending that the characteristics of the AR-6 type be modified to allow it to perform some heavy repairs while retaining most of its other capabilities. The General Board adopted characteristics on 23 December 1940 for a modified AR-6 type ship that could, in addition to its regular repair functions, do heavy hull repairs, re-gun 5" AA and 5" DP batteries of all ships and 6" main batteries of light cruisers, and repair heavy machinery parts and heavy ordnance parts, except guns. The ship was to have substantially enhanced welding and salvage capabilities, and one of its two large cranes was to be increased from 20 to 30 tons in capacity. In compensation, facilities for aviation repairs were to be deleted and those for optical, radio instrument, fire control, sound, and gyro compass repairs would be curtailed as necessary. AR-8 was chosen to receive the modifications and was reclassified ARH-1 before being laid down. By 1957 the differences between her and her sisters had apparently diminished to the point where her special classification was no longer required, and she reverted to her original designation of AR-8.

The VULCAN class repair ships--along with the similar DIXIE (AD-14) class destroyer tenders and FULTON (AS-11) class submarine tenders--were big, useful ships that were able to adapt to radically changing requirements during their unusually long active careers. Of the 16 ships in these three iconic classes, nine remained in active service into the 1990s and one (AS-19) remained on the list until 1999, albeit as a lowly IX.

Ship Notes:
AR Name Notes
5 VULCAN To NDRF 22 Apr 92. MA disposal contract awarded late 2006. Departed NDRF 19 Dec 06 for scrapyard at Chesapeake, Va. Scrapping complete 11 Nov 07.
6 AJAX To Point Mugu, Cal., 22 Jan 92 for use as target. To NDRF 13 Jul 96. Sold by Navy, out of NDRF and to buyer 16 Jun 97, scrapping complete 15 Dec 97.
7 HECTOR Trf. to Pakistan 1989 as MOAWIN. Returned 1994, title to MA 7 Jul 94, sold by MA 29 Sep 94, to buyer 17 Oct 94.
8 JASON Reclassified ARH-1 15 Aug 41, reverted to AR-8 9 Sep 57. To NDRF 19 Jul 96. Sold by Navy for scrap 23 May 97 and out of NDRF to buyer 3 Oct 97 , back to NDRF 2 Jun 99 and scrap contract cancelled 9 Jun 99. MA disposal contract awarded late 2006. Departed NDRF 8 Jan 07 for scrapyard at Brownsville, Tex. Scrapping complete 14 Jan 08.

Page Notes:
AR        1939
Compiled:        31 Jul 2007
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2007