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USS Charleston (LKA 113) on 9 July 1987.

USS Charleston (LKA 113) on 9 July 1987.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: SCB Project Nos. 403.65 and 403.66
Displacement (tons): 13,727 light, 18.648 full
Dimensions (feet): 575.5' oa, 550.0' wl x 82.0' e & wl x 27' max nav
Armament: 4-3"/50T; (1979) 3-3"/50T; (113 and 117: 1988) 2-3"/50T, 2-CIWS
Accommodations: 31 officers and 362 enlisted plus 15/211 troops
Speed (kts.): 22
Propulsion (HP): 22,000
Machinery: Steam turbines, 2 boilers (600psi/850deg), 1 screw

113CHARLESTON11 Jun 1965Newport News5 Dec 19662 Dec 196714 Dec 1968
114DURHAM11 Jun 1965Newport News10 Jul 196729 Mar 196824 May 1969
115MOBILE11 Jun 1965Newport News15 Jan 196819 Oct 196820 Sep 1969
116ST LOUIS11 Jun 1965Newport News3 Apr 19684 Jan 196922 Nov 1969
117EL PASO22 Aug 1966Newport News22 Oct 196817 May 196917 Jan 1970

LKANameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
113CHARLESTON27 Apr 199231 Aug 2015------
114DURHAM25 Feb 199431 Aug 201530 Aug 2020Target--
115MOBILE4 Feb 199431 Aug 2015------
116ST LOUIS2 Nov 199231 Aug 201523 Sep 2018Target--
117EL PASO21 Apr 199431 Aug 2015------

Class Notes:
The design process for this class began with preliminary characteristics in an SCB memo dated 11 October 1963 that outlined a ship similar to TULARE (AKA 112) with a hull size equivalent to that of AFS 1. A preliminary study indicated that the AFS 1 hull and machinery were generally suitable with respect to volume and speed but were deficient in depth to provide the required clear deck heights. The addition of increased depth in the AFS 1 hull was found to result in inadequate stability. Hence a new hull with increased beam was required, although the general AFS 1 hull form was retained. Moving the machinery aft was studied but rejected, a key reason being that the location of the deckhouse and the therefore the machinery amidships resulted in better separation of embarkation stations, reducing congestion of landing craft alongside while they were being loaded. Early in the design studies the desirability of again using the TULARE type quadrupod-boom arrangement (inherited from World War II AKAs) was questioned but it was retained to minimize costs and because no other system was then available that was both better and cheaper. The resulting ship was generally similar to AKA 112 and AFS 1, the former primarily in the cargo handling gear and the latter in the hull form. The machinery plant had two boilers and developed the same power as in both of these types. Their holds had cargo elevators which could reach any level and cargo was moved by forklift. Approved characteristics for an Attack Cargo Ship (AKA), SCB Project No. 403.65, were promulgated on 5 May 1964 and updated as SCB Project No. 403.66 on 17 September 1964 with a final change on 30 March 1966. Four ships were included in the FY 1965 program but construction beyond the single ship in FY 1966 was dropped in favor of LHAs, which carried heavy cargo. The most visible change in the ships as built was the substitution for each of the two quadrupod masts with its two booms of a Stülcken heavy-lift derrick with its two V-shaped, unstayed Samson posts plus a conventional kingpost pair with a smaller boom. Thanks to this heavy lift gear they were the only ships without well decks that could carry the LCM(8) landing craft, of which they carried four lengthwise between their Stülckens and their kingposts. The Stülckens and LCM(8)s also enabled them to handle the latest heavy tanks.

The propulsion plant was a version of the earlier Mariner plant with two top-fired boilers. BUSHIPS on 4 June 1965 selected the single FY 1966 AKA (AKA 117) as a prototype ship for machinery plant automation (centralized control), a major payoff of which was decreased manning. (A later estimate suggested a reduction of 27 watch standers in each AFS and 24 men in each AKA.) The use in the AKA 113 class of top-fired boilers and the general arrangement of the various boiler, turbine, and electrical controls in the class were such as to make the automation process less difficult than in other auxiliary ships. The specifications for AKA 117 were changed to include the following: "Provide automated control of the main propulsion plant and other automatic features as practicable including single lever control of speed and direction from either bridge or machinery spaces and automatic data logging." BUSHIPS included automation in the final design for AKA 117 and accepted a six month delay in delivery of the ship. On 25 January 1966 OPNAV asked BUSHIPS for a cost estimate for automating the four FY 1965 AKAs and the Bureau reported that it would cost $2.2M per ship and delay the delivery of each ship one year. The FY 1967 AFS (AFS 7) was also being considered at this time as a candidate for machinery plant automation, and by May 1966 AFS 4-6 were also being considered. On 4 November 1966 CNO recommended proceeding with the automation of the FY 1965 ships (AKA 113-116 and AFS 4-5), the automation of AFS 6 (FY 1966) having already been directed in October.

On 14 Sep 1968 SECNAV directed the redesignation of AGCs, AKAs, and APAs to LCCs, LKAs, and LPAs. An OPNAV notice of 25 Sep 1968 stated that all ships then in service plus AKA 113, nearly complete, were to receive their new classifications effective 1 Jan 1969. AKA 114-117 and AGC 19-20, then building, were to be reclassified to LKA and LCC on dates determined by NAVSHIPS. A NAVSHIPS letter of 1 Oct 1968 requested officials at Newport News and Philadelphia to implement the new system on the AKAs and AGCs they were building, and 1 Oct 1968 became the reclassification date for LCC 19-20 and LKA 114-117. On 19 Nov 1968 OPNAV advised by telephone that the redesignation of AKA 113 was to be in effect as of the date of commissioning if this occurred before 1 Jan 1969, expected to be 14 December 1968.

As of 1 September 1996 EL PASO and MOBILE were undergoing reactivation and overhaul for use by MSC in its Fleet Auxiliary Force, which also included ships of the AE, AFS, AH, AO, and ATF types. They had not been on this list on 1 February 1996 and had been deleted from it by 1 January 1997.

Ship Notes:
113CHARLESTONFY 1965. Name assigned 27 Sep 1966 as AKA, to LKA 113 14 Dec 1968. To MA custody 29 Sep 1992 at JRRF, removed by the Navy 31 May 1994 initially for stripping but then retained for other purposes. (She was the only one of the class to be in MA custody.) At NISNF Phila 20 Apr 2018.
114DURHAMFY 1965. Name assigned 18 Jan 1967 as AKA, to LKA 114 1 Oct 1968. Target for RIMPAC 2020.
115MOBILEFY 1965. Name assigned 6 Nov 1967 as AKA, to LKA 115 1 Oct 1968. Conversion for MSC use cancelled late 1996. At NISNF Phila 20 Apr 2018.
116ST LOUISFY 1965. Name assigned 11 Jan 1968 as AKA, to LKA 116 1 Oct 1968. Sunk as target off Guam.
117EL PASOFY 1966. Name assigned 24 Sep 1968 as LKA, to LKA 117 1 Oct 1968. Conversion for MSC use cancelled late 1996. At NISNF Phila 20 Apr 2018.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 29 Jul 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: RG 19 Entry P 26 Box 20; Norman Friedman, U.S. Amphibious Ships and Craft (Annapolis, 2002).