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USS Arlington (AGMR 2) circa 1968.

USS Arlington (AGMR 2).
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Design: SCB Project No. 215A
Displacement (tons): 14,240 light, 19,800 full
Dimensions (feet): 683.6' oa, 664' wl x 110' e, 76.7' wl x 26' max
Armament: 4-3"/50T
Accommodations: 50 officers, 989 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 32.5
Propulsion (HP): 120,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 4 boilers (550 psi/850 deg), 4 screws

2ARLINGTON1 Sep 1964NYSB Camden NJ10 Jul 19448 Jul 194527 Aug 1966

AGMRNameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
2ARLINGTON14 Jan 197015 Aug 19753 Jun 1976Navy sale--

Class Notes:
Approved characteristics for a Command Ship (CC), SCB Project No. 228, were promulgated on 31 July 1961 with a final change on 16 December 1963. These were for a Phase II NECPA (National Emergency Command Post Afloat), to which the President and his advisors would move in the event of nuclear war. Phase I was NORTHAMPATON (CC 1, ex CLC 1), converted in 1961. The Phase II conversions were to be WRIGHT (ex AVT 7, ex CVL 49) to CC 2 in FY 1962 and SAIPAN (ex AVT 6, ex CVL 48) to CC 3 in FY 1963. On 14 August 1962 the President authorized and directed the conversion of SAIPAN to a command ship. On 4 February 1964 BUSHIPS, citing "changing military requirements," directed Alabama DD & SB at Mobile, Ala., to suspend for 90 days all work under its contract for the SAIPAN conversion, and on the next day CNO, complying with a directive from the Secretary of Defense, discontinued the conversion of SAIPAN to a NECPA ship and stated that present plans were to complete her as an AGMR, cancelling the AGMR 2 conversion from an AVT in the FY 1964 program. (That AGMR 2 had received Presidental approval on 19 September 1963.) With two command ships in commission, NORTHAMPTON (CC 1) and WRIGHT (CC 2), DOD now considered a third to be unnecessary. The command ship conversion of SAIPAN was 59.2% complete as of 15 January 1964. The 4 February 1964 stop work order was was released to the public on 20 February 1964, drawing much Congressional attention because Alabama DD & SB would have to lay off over 600 employees and because at least $18 million of the $21.6 million budgeted for the conversion had been spent.

A letter drafted by BUSHIPS on 11 March 1964 but not sent explained that the budget estimate for the FY 1964 AGMR conversion from an AVT was $28.5 million assuming it would be a repeat version of AGMR 1. However improvements in AGMR characteristics, particularly electronics equipment, issued by the SCB on 14 June 1963 (SCB 215 for FY 1964) and later would increase this cost by an estimated $9.6 million, and AGMR 2 at $38.1 million would no longer be a follow ship to AGMR 1. If the partially converted SAIPAN were used instead of the AVT, savings would accrue and a more capable communications ship would result. The CC 3 cancellation and a superior AGMR conversion using the SAIPAN hull could be accomplished within the present budgeted costs of the two ships of $50.1 million ($21.6 million for CC 3 and $28.5 million for AGMR 2) and SAIPAN was selected for conversion to an AGMR in place of the then-scheduled conversion of VELLA GULF (AKV 11, ex CVE 111). However the change from CC 3 to AGMR 2 required the addition of electronics far beyond the CC 2 design. Approved characteristics for a Major Communications Relay Ship (AGMR), SCB Project No. 215A, were promulgated on 25 March 1964 for the SAIPAN AGMR conversion. The changes received Presidential approval on 14 August 1964. By one account, as completed ARLINGTON had 10 10 kw HF transmitters (AN/FRT-39), 14 500 watt HF transmitters (AN/WRT-2), 1 10 kw LF transmitter (TMC GPT-10KLF), 65 multi-channel receivers (AN/FRR-60 & R-1051/URR), 1200 pieces of teletype gear, 19 transmitting and 22 receiving antennas, two 109' tall antenna masts, 74 miles of cable, and 237,000 electrical connections. She could simultaneously connect with 3 naval communications stations with 6 channels for each. The after flight deck was used as a helicopter landing pad and the after elevator remained operational. J.J. Henry Co. Inc. of Philadelphia served as the naval architect and marine engineer for the conversion project.

SAIPAN was renamed ARLINGTON on 8 April 1965 for the site of one of the Navy's first wireless test stations. She departed the conversion yard at Mobile on 12 August 1966 amd was commissioned at Norfolk on 27 August 1966. She departed Norfolk on 7 July 1967 and commenced her first patrol in the Tonkin Gulf on 21 August 1967, providing reliable broadcast and message handling facilities for ships of the 7th Fleet in support of combat operations in rotation with ANNAPOLIS (AGMR 1). On returning to the Philippines in Septembe 1967 ARLINGTON received a new satellite communications terminal and then resumed her communications relay duties off Vietnam. In early December 1967 she got underway for Pearl Harbor to join TF 130, the Manned Spacecraft Recovery Force, Pacific. Acting as primary landing area communications relay ship, she participated in the recovery of Apollo 8 on 27 December 1968. On 17 January 1969 she resumed direct communications support for naval units in Tonkin Gulf, but on 2 May 1969 she returned to Hawaii and once again joined TF 130. Again assigned as primary landing area communications relay ship, she departed Pearl Harbor on 11 May 1969 and proceded to the Apollo 10 recovery area. On 26 May 1969 the capsule was recovered and the assigned ships returned to Hawaii. From there, ARLINGTON proceeded to Midway Atoll where on 8 June 1969 she provided communications support for the Nixon-Thieu conference on Midway Island. On 27 June 1969 she returned to the Vietnamese coast, but on 7 July 1969 she was ordered east for her third Apollo recovery mission. On 23 July 1969 off Johnston Island she embarked President Richard Nixon for an overnight visit, and on 24 July 1969 she supported the recovery of Apollo 11. On 21 August 1969 she arrived for the first time at her homeport, Long Beach, Calif., and four days later she shifted to San Diego to begin inactivation. She was decommissioned on 14 January 1970 at San Diego.

In the meantime, the NECPA concept came into question as the quality of the Soviet submarine force improved through the 1960s and as the expense of the NECPA ships became a burden on badly stretched Vietnam-era Navy budgets. Both NECPA ships including WRIGHT (CC 2) were decommissioned in 1970, though they remained on the list until 1 December 1977. The National Emergency Command Post mission was taken over by the Air Force.

Ship Notes:

2ARLINGTON(ex SAIPAN, CC 3, ex AVT 6, ex CVL 48, ord. 18 Sep 1943, comm. 14 Jul 1946). FY 1963 as CC, 1964 as AGMR. Reclassified CC 3 from AVT 6 on 1 Jan 1964 and AGMR 2 on 1 Sep 1964, renamed ARLINGTON on 8 Apr 1965. To buyer 18 Jun 1976.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 6 March 2023
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2023
Special sources: www.navy-radio.com/ships/agmr2.htm