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USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205) on builder's trials on or before 4 February 2022.
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Class: JOHN LEWIS (T-AO 205)
Design: T-AO 205
Displacement (tons): 49,850 full
Dimensions (feet): 746' oa x 106.3' x 33.5' max
Armament: Space, weight and power reserved for CIWS or SeaRAM (Rolling Airframe Missile)
Complement: 125 total
Speed (kts.): 20
Propulsion (BHP): 38,000 (2 x 19,000)
Machinery: 2 medium-speed Fairbanks Morse four-stroke diesels with exhaust after-treatment system, 2 screws
|205||JOHN LEWIS||30 Jun 2016||NASSCO||13 May 2019||12 Jan 2021||--|
|206||HARVEY MILK||30 Jun 2016||NASSCO||3 Sep 2020||6 Nov 2021||--|
|207||EARL WARREN||30 Jun 2016||NASSCO||30 Apr 2022||--||--|
|208||ROBERT F KENNEDY||30 Jun 2016||NASSCO||--||--||--|
|209||LUCY STONE||30 Jun 2016||NASSCO||--||--||--|
|210||SOJOURNER TRUTH||30 Jun 2016||NASSCO||--||--||--|
|212||RUTH BADER GINSBURG||--||--||--||--||--|
|208||ROBERT F KENNEDY||T||--||--||--||--||--|
|212||RUTH BADER GINSBURG||T||--||--||--||--||--|
On June 30, 2016, General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) was awarded a contract for the detailed design and construction of six JOHN LEWIS (T-AO 205) class replenishment oilers. The T-AO 205 class has capabilities similar to those of the preceding HENRY J KAISER (T-AO 187) class, relies on existing technologies rather than new technologies, and is constructed to commercial standards. To guard against oil spills, T-AO 205s are double-hulled, like modern commercial oil tankers and the last three ships of the KAISER class, with a space between the two hulls to protect the inner hull against events that puncture the outer hull. The new ships can carry 156,000 barrels of oil and have increased dry cargo storage over the HENRY J KAISER class. There are stations on both sides of each ship for underway replenishment of fuel and stores for a total of 5 refueling stations and two dry cargo transfer rigs. As of early 2022 T-AO 205 was conducting trials, T-AO 206 was nearing completion, T-AO 207 and 208 were under construction, T-209-210 were under contract, and a total of 20 was planned. These ships are placed in service with MSC to support the fleet when completed. By 2021 these along with the remaining ships of the T-AO 187 class, the T-AOE 6 class, and the new T-AKE 1 type were categorized as Combat Logistics Ships in contrast with the other auxiliaries which were categorized as Fleet Support ships. On January 6, 2016, then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the T-AO 205 class ships would be named for “people who fought for civil rights and human rights.”
According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the required number of oilers largely depends on the numbers and types of other surface ships (and their embarked aircraft) to be refueled, and the projected operational patterns for these ships and aircraft. The Navy’s force-level objective as released on December 15, 2016 called for achieving and maintaining a 355-ship fleet, including 32 CLF (Combat Logistics Force) ships, of which 20 were to be T-AO 205s. Consistent with this plan, the Navy then wanted to procure a total of 20 T-AO 205s. The Navy procured the first T-AO 205 in FY 2016, the second in FY 2018, the third and fourth in FY 2019, and the fifth and sixth in FY 2020. All six were procured under a block buy contract that was authorized by the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The Navy’s proposed FY 2022 budget requested $668.2 million for a seventh T-AO 205 class ship along with $76.0 million in advance procurement funding for an eighth, and the FY 2023 budget requested full funding for the eighth ship. The Navy’s five-year (FY 2023-FY 2027) shipbuilding program also includes two T-AO 205s in FY 2024 and one each in FY 2025 to 2027, although these five-year plans are often poor predictors of actual procurement.
Since 2019 the Navy and DOD have been working to develop a new Navy force-level goal to replace the 2016 355-ship goal. At the same time the Navy’s FY 2021 budget submission initiated the NGLS program, also known as the Next-Generation Medium Logistics Ship program, which envisaged building a new class of CLF ships (or a family of CLF ship designs) that would be smaller and individually less expensive to procure than the Navy’s current CLF ships. (The Navy’s FY 2023 30-year shipbuilding plan refers to the NGLS as a T-AOL or light oiler.) On December 9, 2020, the Trump Administration released a long-range Navy shipbuilding document that proposed to add to the CLF force a number of NGLS ships, and on June 17, 2021, the Biden Administration released a long-range Navy shipbuilding document that also included NGLSs in the Combat Logistics Force. The NGLS is part of a new operational concept that the Navy is studying called Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO). To more effectively counter the improving anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities of adversaries (China in particular), which aim to create a defended area around a country that in time of conflict would be a “no-go zone” for opposing military forces, DMS calls for shifting to a new, more distributed fleet architecture that is to include a reduced proportion of larger ships and an increased proportion of smaller ships along with conducting more-widely dispersed Navy operations. DMO aims at avoiding a situation in which an adversary could defeat U.S. naval forces by concentrating its attacks on a relatively small number of large, high-value U.S. Navy ships. No new force-level plan has yet been adopted, but all publicised proposals include more Combat Logistics Force ships than the 32 in the 2016 plan. The Navy’s FY 2023 budget request includes $3.0 million in research and development funding for the program in Project 4045 (Next Generation Medium Logistics Ship), and the Navy’s five-year (FY 2023-FY 2027) shipbuilding plan programs the procurement of the first NGLS in FY 2026 at a cost of $150.0 million and the second in FY 2027 at a cost of $156.0 million. The future of the Combat Logistic Force may thus be very different from the current mix of T-AOEs, T-AOs, and T-AKEs.
The underway replenishment system of record for new ship construction beginning with the T-AO-205 class is the new "Electric STREAM" (E-STREAM) fuel and cargo delivery system. In the early 2000s, a requirement to increase the sortie generation rate of GERALD R FORD class aircraft carriers led to the development of a new, heavier-capacity UNREP system design. The transfer requirements were increased from 25 5,700-pound loads per hour to either 25 12,000- or 50 6,000-pound loads per hour. Two prototype heavy delivery stations were built, one ashore and one in 2012 on USNS ARCTIC (T-AOE-8). This new system, with variable-frequency drives and a programmable logic control system, has proved more reliable, more compact, easier to use and maintain, and less damaging to cargo while preserving complete compatibility with existing STREAM receiving stations at the original load weight but with increased transfer speeds. A third installation on board USNS CESAR CHAVEZ (T-AKE-14) was completed in October 2017. As of 2018 only the speed improvements and not the heavy lift capability were being implementated.
|205||JOHN LEWIS||FY 2016. Construction started 20 September 2018, christened/commissioned 17 Jul 2021, conducted initial builder's trials 4 February 2022, and conducted acceptance trials 25 April 2022.|
|206||HARVEY MILK||FY 2018. Christened at launch 6 November 2021. |
|207||EARL WARREN||FY 2019. Keel laid 30 April 2022.|
|208||ROBERT F KENNEDY||FY 2019. Construction started 21 May 2021.|
|209||LUCY STONE||FY 2020.|
|210||SOJOURNER TRUTH||FY 2020.|
|211||THURGOOD MARSHALL||FY 2022.|
|212||RUTH BADER GINSBURG||Advance procurement in FY 2022, full funding in FY 2023 or later.|
Compiled: 9 Jun 2022
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2022
Special sources: CRS Report by Ronald O'Rourke, "Navy John Lewis (TAO-205) Class Oiler Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress," as updated August 31, 2021.