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USS Rigel (AF 58) circa 1956.

USS Rigel (AF 58) circa 1956.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class: RIGEL (AF 58).
Design: SCB Project No. 97 and MA R3-S-4a.
Displacement (tons): 7,950 light, 15,150 full
Dimensions (feet): 502' oa, 475' wl x 72' e/wl x 29' max nav
Armament: 4-3"/50T; (58: 1963, 59: 1969) 2-3"/50T
Accommodations: 20 officers, 330 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 21
Propulsion (HP): 16,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (615psi/850deg), 1 screw

58RIGEL13 Aug 1953Ingalls SB, Pascagoula15 Mar 195415 Mar 19552 Sep 1955
59VEGA13 Aug 1953Ingalls SB, Pascagoula24 May 195426 Apr 195510 Nov 1955

AFNameTDecomm/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
58RIGELTr9 Sep 1992/C16 May 19941 Apr 1998MA/TJul 2008
59VEGA29 Apr 197729 Apr 19772 May 1977MA/T21 Dec 1977

Class Notes:
An internal OPNAV memo of 13 Feb 1951 recommended including in the FY53 program four conversions of existing merchant type hulls or new construction fast fleet issue refrigerated stores ships (AF) to replace present slow AF's. An AF prototype was included in a SCB draft of the FY53 program dated 24 May 1951. BUSHIPS on 30 July 1951 commented that the requirements for the converted design were generally feasible. It was assumed that the basic design of the C3-S-DX1 (Freedom class, see SCHUYLER OTIS BLAND, AK 277) would be revised to eliminate present criticisms and that ships of the new design would be built with the conversion of the new basic design to AF being accomplished during the building. The standard displacement would be about 6000 tons. The four stores ships in the FY53 program were reduced to two on 1 Sepember 1951 in the program as approved by CNO, prompting a protest on 4 Sepember 1951 from the OPNAV Director of Fleet Operations that the reduction meant that "we must expect a dangerous shortage in this type."

An internal BUSHIPS memorandum dated 7 September 1951 considered possible modifications to the Maritime Administration's C3-S-DX1 design in view of the fact that the proposed FY 1953 Shipbuilding and Conversion program called for building two AFs (refrigerated store ships) and one AVS (aviation supply ship) predicated on that design. On 5 January 1952 BUSHIPS informed the Administrator of the Maritime Administration, retired Vice Admiral E. L. Cochrane, USNR, that it was possible that the Navy Shipbuilding and Conversion Program for FY 1953 might include two new naval refrigerated store ships (AF). Based on its earlier analysis, BUSHIPS listed the expected characteristics, including a 20 knot trial speed, a single screw powered by a steam turbine, and principal hull characteristics about the same as the MA C3-S-DX1 design ship but with significant modifications. BUSHIPS stated that it was considering having the ships designed and built for the Navy Department by the Maritime Administration with Navy funds and asked for the Administrator's views. MARAD agreed to participate in the project on 14 January 1952. On 27 February 1952 BUSHIPS specified that the Navy would produce the design and contract drawings with assistance from commercial Design Agents as required. The design would be based on merchant ship standards except where Navy standards were mandatory. Construction of the ships and approval of all working plans, however, would be by MARAD. Also on 27 February 1952, George G. Sharp as design agent delivered an initial preliminary design of an AF (Project No. 97). On 19 May 1952 a Conference on Mobile Logistic Support recommended that four types of ship should be equipped for replenishment at sea: an oiler (AO), an ammunition ship (AE), a refrigerated stores ship (AF), and a general stores issue ship (AKS), the latter to carry technical and aviation spares in addition to general stores. While commercial ships could and would be modified for these functions in the event of mobilization, it was decided to base the original design for the replenishment ships included in the Navy Shipbuilding Program on Navy rather than commercial requirements and thus obtain the most favorable spacing of decks and sheer and camber. On 21 July 1952 Sharp delivered a Summary of Design for Refrigerated Stores Ship (AF) Shipbulding Project No. 97, supplemented by several reports reports on 1 August 1952. The ships were to be built by the Maritime Administration and under their supervision for the exclusive use of the Navy.

Approved characteristics for a new construction Stores Ship (AF), SCB Project 97, were promulgated on 21 Jul 1952 with a final change on 25 March 1957, and the MA specifications were dated 3 November 1952 and revised 12 January 1953. These were MA hulls 36 and 37, the first ordered after the Mariner class cargo ships. Designated R3-S-4a by MA and possibly based on one of its hull designs, they were the largest American pure refrigerated ships at 15,540 tons full load.

Approved characteristics for a new construction store ship (AF), SCB Project No. 156, were promulgated on 28 November 1955 with a final change on 25 March 1957. This project along with Project 115 for a new AKS probably evolved into the AFS, which absorbed the functions of both types. Undated Preliminary Design sketches also exist for a small and a medium T-AF, both having the superstructure well aft with four large holds forward of it and one small one aft of it. The medium one measured 550'oa, 520'pp x 72'x 25.5'full, 15,000 tons full displacement, 17,500hp for 20 knots, and a crew of 58. The small one measured 500'oa, 475' pp x 66'x 23'full, 11,500t full displacement, 7,200hp for 16.5 knots, and a crew of 54. As MSTS ships they would have been for point-to-point service and not fleet issue.

VEGA was used from March to November 1960 for at-sea tests of a ram-tensioned sliding-block ammunition and cargo transfer system called STREAM (Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method), which was installed in half of an M-frame transfer station then being developed for the AOE 1 class. The STREAM system was integrated into the more complex FAST system of the 1960s and began to replace it in 1970 when FAST proved to be a maintenance nightmare. (See the AOE 1 class for a description and history of FAST.) The improvised M-frame stayed on VEGA for several years because SERVPAC thought they might want the experimental STREAM rig for service use. In the meantime RIGEL in 1961 was fitted with an experimental Helicopter Extended Area Platform (HEAP), an inexpensive cantilever beam that extended 25 feet over the starboard side forward of the bridge and from the end of which helicopters could pick up cargo for delivery to other ships. Two years later, that platform was replaced by a conventional one on her fantail (displacing two of her four 3"/50 twin gun mounts), a modification soon applied to much of the Navy's underway replenishment fleet. VEGA received her platform aft in 1969. RIGEL served in the Atlantic while VEGA served in the Pacific. At the decommissioning ceremony for VEGA in 1977, Commander Service Group One explained that "This type of ship with booms, hatches and masts is doomed." Unlike VEGA, RIGEL in 1975 found a second career in MSC with her guns and other military equipment removed.

Ship Notes:
58RIGEL36FY 1953. Decomm and to MSC 23 Jun 1975. To MA custody 9 Sep 1992, title accepted by MA 1 Apr 1998 for disposal. Transferred back to Navy for disposal as required by the FY2008 Defense Authorization act (with TRUCKEE and KALAMAZOO). Sold by Navy Jul 2008 to All Star Metals, Brownsville, TX. Departed MA custody 28 Aug 2008 enroute Brownsville.
59VEGA37FY 1953. To MA custody 2 May 1977. Sold 21 December 1977 to Union Metals & Alloys for non-transportation use (probably as a processing ship). BU 1988 at Kaohsiung.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 22 July 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Sources: NARA: RG19 Item S-13 Entry 1021-M1(UD); Marvin O. Miller, Designing the U.S. Navy's Underway Replenishment System, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme, Cal., 1996.