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USS Annapolis (AGMR 1) on 12 June 1964.

USS Annapolis (AGMR 1).
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

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
Armament: 4-3"/50T
Accommodations: 48 officers, 700 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 19
Propulsion (HP): 16,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 4 boilers (450 psi/750 deg), 2 screws

1ANNAPOLIS1 Jun 1963Todd, Tacoma29 Nov 194320 Jul 19447 Mar 1964

AGMRNameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
1ANNAPOLIS20 Dec 196915 Oct 19761 Nov 1979Navy sale--

Class Notes:
According to a BUSHIPS hull design history for SCB Project No. 215 dated 12 September 1961, the AGMR (Major Communications Relay Ship) was essentially a floating naval radio station. The need for such a station existed because it might be necessary to abandon some radio stations located on foreign soil, and it might become necessary to move a radio station into an area of special operations. On 25 June 1958 the Ship Characteristics Board asked BUSHIPS to produce a feasibility and cost study for a communications ship, and on 21 November 1958 BUSHIPS submitted a report which proposed the conversion of two CVE 105 class ships, one as an AGMT for transmitting and one as an AGMR for receiving. The CVE 105 class offered minimum radiation interference due to its flight deck, adequate space for equipment in its hangar deck and elsewhere, simplicity of ship alterations, and large tank spaces in the hull that provided excellent damaged stability and endurance. 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), both of which were in the tentative FY 1961 Shipbuilding and Conversion Program. 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 transmitting services. Together they were to replace or supplement a major shore communications receiving/transmitting station.

After two working level meetings, proposed characteristics for SCB projects 209 and 210 were circulated together on 3 August 1959 for review by the full Ship Characteristics Board on 27 August 1959. Each ship was to be a conversion of a CVE 105 class ship, the AGMR to act as the receiving portion and the AGMT to act as the transmitting portion of a two ship mobile major communications relay activity. This mobile communication complex might operate for protracted periods of time at advance or remote locations as an augmentation of existing shore type communications services, as a substitute for essential communications services that might be lost, and/or as a temporary extension of essential communications services into areas of special operations. Each ship was to be outfitted with a specially designed antenna system, was to have an armament of two 3"/50 twin mounts and two 3"/50 single mounts, and was to have a helicopter landing area without maintenance facilities. In each the pilot house and bridge wings were to be located forward of and one level below the level of the flight deck, with limited conning facilities on top of the pilot house for close maneuvering purposes and observation stations aft to assist the ship's conning officer.

The AGMR/AGMT pair was not included in the final FY 1961 building program. In searching for a way to reduce cost, it was decided that both transmitting and receiving functions could be contained in a single hull. Accorgingly SCB Project No. 215 was developed for a Major Communications Relay Ship (AGMR) that provided both functions. Missions and tasks for the AGMR were promulgated on 27 July 1960 and approved characteristics for SCB Project No. 215 were promulgated on 2 December 1960 for a conversion in the FY 1962 program with a final change on 10 April 1963. The mission of the ship was to provide mobile communications for the command and control of fleet operations in areas where shore-based communications did not exist or were inadequate. The ship was to replace in part or supplement a major shore communications station by providing area broadcasts, area or inter-area relay circuits, and relay for ship/shore circuits. It was also to provide the same services in areas not covered by shore communications stations. Like the AGMR/AGMT pair it was to be a conversion of a CVE 105 class ship equipped with a specially designed antenna system and with a helicopter landing area without maintenance facilities. Unlike the AGMR/AGMT pair it was to retain the existing island for the pilot house, chart house, and captain's sea cabin. Its armament was to be four 3"/50 twin mounts with a Mk 63 fire control system. The decision to close in the bow was due solely to a desire to avoid the storm damage that unmodified CVE 105 class ships had experienced. The signature date for the design was 31 July 1961.

The first AGMR conversion was included in the FY 1962 program, but in October 1961, because of the need for immediate commencement of the conversion of the first Phase II NECPA (National Emergency Command Post Afloat) hull (WRIGHT, CC 2, ex AVT 7, ex CVL 49), the Navy decided to reprogram most of the FY 1962 AGMR funds to her and move the AGMR to FY 1963. GILBERT ISLANDS (AKV 39, ex CVE 107) and VELLA GULF (AKV 11, ex CVHE 111, ex CVE 111) had been struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1961 and 1 June 1960 respectively but were reinstated on 1 November 1961 under their AKV numbers for conversion to AGMR 1 and AGMR 2 respectively. An update of the 2 December 1960 characteristics was promulgated on 9 May 1963 for a FY 1963 AGMR with a final change on 7 April 1964, and an update was promulgated on 14 June 1963 with a final change on 13 January 1964 for a second AGMR in FY 1964, AGMR 2. Both were still SCB 215.

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. By March 1964 BUSHIPS had concluded that, given the need for a redesign, it made more sense to convert the partially converted but recently cancelled and thus available second Phase II NECPA hull, SAIPAN (CC 3, ex AVT 6, ex CVL 48), in place of the smaller VELLA GULF, and on 25 March 1964 approved characteristics were promulgated for the SAIPAN AGMR conversion, SCB Project No. 215A. See ARLINGTON (AGMR 2) for more on this ship. VELLA GULF remained in reserve after her AGMR conversion was cancelled and was struck again on 1 December 1970 and sold. The original FY 1963 AKV conversion was proceeded with, resulting in ANNAPOLIS (AGMR 1).

The conversion of GILBERT ISLANDS (AKV 39, ex CVE 107) to ANNAPOLIS (AGMR 1) involved the modification of the flight deck to include a hurricane bow, removal of her World War II 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. In August 1962 GILBERT ISLANDS 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 of which KINGSPORT was a part, 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 Communications 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.

Ship Notes:

1ANNAPOLISFY 1963. (Ex GILBERT ISLANDS, AKV 39, ex CVE 107, ord. 25 Jan 1943, comm. 5 Feb 1945.) Reclassified AGMR 1 on 1 June 1963, renamed ANNAPOLIS on 22 June 1963. Converted at NSY New York. To buyer 12 Dec 1979.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 6 March 2023
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2023
Special sources: NARA: RG 19 Entry P 62 boxes 74, 97, and 100; RG 19 Entry P 52 box 16 (SCB 215); www.navy-radio.com/ships/agmr1.htm; www.agmr1-uss-annapolis.org/about-agmr-1