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USS Annapolis (AGMR 1).
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Class: ANNAPOLIS (AGMR 1)
Design: SCB Project No. 215
Displacement (tons): 10,330 light, 23,850 full
Dimensions (feet): 557.1' oa, 525' wl x 104' e, 75' wl x 30.6' max
Accommodations: 48 officers, 700 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 19
Propulsion (HP): 16,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 4 boilers (450 psi/750 deg), 2 screws
|1||ANNAPOLIS||1 Jun 1963||Todd, Tacoma||29 Nov 1943||20 Jul 1944||7 Mar 1964|
|1||ANNAPOLIS||20 Dec 1969||15 Oct 1976||1 Nov 1979||Navy sale||--|
A program planning document dated 13 Jan 1959 included a line for "AGMT/MR Major Relay Ship" with two ships in FY 1961 and two in FY 1962. Soon afterwards, on 23 June 1959, DCNO (Fleet Operations and Readiness) proposed for CNO approval definitions of Missions and Tasks for a Major Relay Receiving Ship (AGMR, SCB Project No. 209) and a Major Relay Transmitting Ship (AGMT, SCB Project No. 210). These "Major Relay Ships" were new types for which no such definitions then existed. The mission of the AGMR was defined as to provide communications relay receiving services between naval communications stations and between the Naval Shore Establishment and the Operating Forces of the Navy when utilized with a Major Relay Transmitting Ship. The mission of the AGMT was to provide matching communication tranmitting services. Together they were to replace or supplement a major shore communications receiving/transmitting station. GILBERT ISLANDS (AKV 39, ex CVE 107 7 May 1959) and VELLA GULF (AKV 11, ex CVHE 111 7 May 1959, ex CVE 111 12 June 1955) had been struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1961 and 1 June 1960 respectively but were reinstated on 1 November 1961 with their AKV numbers for conversion to AGMR 1 and AGMR 2 respectively. (They may initially have been a AGMR/AGMT pair.) VELLA GULF remained in reserve after her AGMR conversion was cancelled and was struck again on 1 December 1970 and sold.
The AGMR/AGMT pairs seem to have been quickly dropped from the program and the two types were then combined into an AGMR (SCB Project No. 215) that provided both functions. Approved characteristics for a Major Communications Relay Ship, SCB Project No. 215, were promulgated on 2 December 1960 with a final change on 10 April 1963. The first AGMR conversion was included in the FY 1962 program but in October 1961 the Navy decided, because of the need for immediate commencement of the conversion of the Phase II NECPA hull (WRIGHT, ex AVT 7, ex CVL 49), to reprogram most of the FY 1962 AGMR funds to her and move the AGMR to FY 1963. Updated characteristics for a FY 1963 AGMR was promulgated on 9 May 1963 with a final change on 7 April 1964 and an update for a second AGMR in FY 1964 was promulgated on 14 June 1963 with a final change on 13 January 1964. Both were then still SCB 215.
The conversion of CVE 107 to AGMR 1 involved the modification of the flight deck to include a hurricane bow, removal of Second World War armament and the addition of four radar controlled twin 3-inch 50 caliber anti-aircraft gun mounts, two per side. An antenna array with two directional and two omni-directional antennas was installed on the flight deck. The aircraft hangar bay was converted into communication spaces, although one aircraft elevator was retained to allow servicing of equipment and boat storage. In the communication spaces were installed 24 radio transmitters with low through ultra-high frequencies. To provide the necessary cooling of equipment in the communications spaces, three 120-ton air conditioning units were installed with 130 tons dedicated for the communications spaces, the rest being routed to the other interior spaces of the ship.
A review of the June 1963 characteristics for AGMR 2 revealed that there were extensive electronics differences between her and AGMR 1. The AGMR 2 design added five more transmitters, more automatic processing systems, and major terminal equipment changes that were required to meet new standards. These required longer and rearranged communications spaces on the hangar and gallery decks, sixty tons more of air conditioning capacity, and replacement of the ship's entire electric generating plant with one of about twice the power. Structural alterations included enclosed stern spaces and a flight deck extension to support VLF antennas. These changes drove the cost of the ship up from $28.5 to $38.1 million, required delaying the contract award from March to October 1964, and lengthened the conversion interval by ten months, all of which would delay completion until August 1967. For the substitution of SAIPAN (CC 3, ex AVT 6, ex CVL 48) for this second AKV conversion as AGMR 2, see the page for AGMR 2. The original FY 1963 AKV conversion was proceeded with, resulting in ANNAPOLIS (AGMR 1).
The conversion of GILBERT ISLANDS to a communications ship began in August 1962 when she was towed from her berth in the Reserve Group at Bayonne, New Jersey, to the New York Naval Shipyard where the conversion took place. Renamed USS ANNAPOLIS for the site of one of the Navy's first major communications stations, she was commissioned as AGMR-1 on March 7, 1964. The primary services provided by ANNAPOLIS were fleet broadcasts and ship-to-shore circuits. Most of her equipment was designed to handle large volumes of message-type communications, primarily radioteletype, on either single-channel or multi-channel circuits. The ship had approximately 30 transmitters with corresponding receivers providing frequency band coverage ranging from low frequency to ultra high frequency. The power outputs of the transmitters varied from ten watts to 10,000 watts. There were five antenna towers rising from the antenna deck, formerly the flight deck. These, all on the centerline, included a slender foremast, two tall lattice towers supporting large log periodic antennas, and two shorter masts supporting large horizontal circular arrays. The towers supported the antenna arrays for low, medium, and high frequency transmitters and receivers. Some of the transmitting antennas were relatively directional, thus facilitating a concentrated, beamed radio signal. In view of the large numbers of transmitters and receivers and the relatively little space for the antennas, most transmitters and receivers had to share antennas through a system of multicouplers designed especially for ANNAPOLIS. The equipment in ANNAPOLIS was arranged primarily to facilitate the expeditious relay of large volumes of teletype messages for a large force on broadcast, ship-to-ship, and ship-to-shore circuits. In contrast to combatant ships including command ships, very little of the message traffic handled would be addressed to or originated by ANNAPOLIS.
The original plans for ANNAPOLIS called for her to be the first vessel to have satellite communications that would provide direct communications to military commanders in the Pacific and Washington DC, but she sailed from Norfolk, VA without that capability, having only an empty pedestal over the bridge for the antenna. The new satellite technology was delivered to the ship in late 1966 while she was at anchor at Subic Bay in the Philippines, but final installation and operational tests occurred at sea with the satellite dish antenna being installed on the pedestal by the ship's shipfitters while off the coast of Vietnam. Although KINGSPORT (AG 164) was the first ship to have satellite transmission capability, ANNAPOLIS was the first Navy fleet operational ship with that capability. Geosynchronous satellites were still in development following the failure of the ADVENT program in KINGSPORT, and the original low orbiting communications satellites were available for communications only for short intervals, often of 5 to 15 minutes in length. In addition the use of unproven gyroscopes to keep the satellite dish stable on a poorly supported pedestal while tracking the low orbiting satellites required many hours of tweaking and adjusting the equipment.
As part of her acceptance trials, ANNAPOLIS handled fleet broadcasts and ship-to-ship communications during Operation STEEL PIKE, an 80-ship U.S.-Spanish exercise held in October 1964, before officially joining the Atlantic Fleet on 16 December 1964. She was then deployed to Vietnam on a permanent basis, arriving in September 1965. At first she supported "Market Time" operations off the coast of South Vietnam with a local area broadcast and other support and was the only communications ship in theater. In August 1967 the U.S. Naval Communication Station at Cam Ranh Bay was commissioned, assuming her local area broadcast responsibilities, and USS ARLINGTON (AGMR 2) arrived off Vietnam, allowing the two ships to relieve each other on station (although ARLINGTON was frequently off station to support Apollo space flights). The ships alternated on a station near the entrance to the Gulf of Tonkin and relayed broadcasts from the U.S. Naval Communication Stations in the Philippines and Guam to ships involved in gunfire support and "Sea Dragon" surveillance operations. In August 1968 ANNAPOLIS finished her 18th patrol off Vietnam and headed for overhaul in Yokosuka, Japan, her first since her conversion. She left for home on 9 April 1969 via the Mediterranean and was decommissioned on 20 December 1969 at Norfolk, Va.
|1||ANNAPOLIS||(ex GILBERT ISLANDS, AKV 39, ex CVE 107, ord. 25 Jan 1943, comm. 5 Feb 1945). FY 1963. Reclassified AGMR 1 on 1 June 1963, renamed ANNAPOLIS on 22 June 1963. Converted at NSY New York. To buyer 12 Dec 1979.|
Compiled: 6 March 2023
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2023
Special sources: www.navy-radio.com/ships/agmr1.htm; www.agmr1-uss-annapolis.org/about-agmr-1