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USS Sacramento (AOE 1) on 18 May 1964.

USS Sacramento (AOE 1) on 18 May 1964.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: SCB Project Nos. 196, 711.65, and 711.66
Displacement (tons): 18,884 light, 49,956 full
Dimensions (feet): 796' oa, 770' wl x 107' e/wl x 38' max nav
Armament: 4-3"/50T; (1979-80) 1-MK29 MLS, 2-3"/50; (1981-82 except 3: 1986) 1-MK29 MLS, 2-CIWS
Accommodations: 34 officers and 602 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 27.5 (26 sustained)
Propulsion (HP): 100,000
Machinery: 2 steam turbines, 4 boilers (600psi), 2 screws

1SACRAMENTO8 Aug 1960NSY Puget Sd.30 Jun 196114 Sep 196314 Mar 1964
2CAMDEN25 Apr 1963New York SB17 Feb 196429 May 19651 Apr 1967
3SEATTLE19 Dec 1964NSY Puget Sd.1 Oct 19652 Mar 19685 Apr 1969
4DETROIT29 Dec 1965NSY Puget Sd.29 Nov 196621 Jun 196928 Mar 1970

AOENameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
1SACRAMENTO1 Oct 20041 Oct 200413 Apr 2007Navy sale--
2CAMDEN14 Oct 200514 Oct 200513 Apr 2007Navy sale--
3SEATTLE15 Mar 200515 Mar 20059 Feb 2006Navy sale--
4DETROIT17 Feb 200517 Feb 200517 Oct 2005Navy sale--
5unnamed----4 Nov 1969Canc.--

Class Notes:
In 1954 an evaluation of the performance of CONECUH as a fleet replenishment ship (AOR) in the Mediterranean included a recommendation for the conversion of a fleet AO for use as an AOR (Medium) or a BB for use as an AOR (large), although COMSERVLANT disapproved this recommendation. As of 1957 CINCLANTFLT wanted a high performance (25 knot) AOR as an "integral part of a striking force" with a change to nuclear power in 1963, while CINCPACFLT wanted two versions of AOR, one resembling the LANTFLT version and a smaller AOR for "barrier and/or ASW forces." In November 1957 CNO Burke convened a second conference on mobile logistic support (for the first, in 1952, see the AO 143 class) at which OP-04 (CNO's office for logistics) presented a concept called the "Fast Combat-Support Ship," later AOE, that was based on talks between the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Division, senior Pentagon admirals, and CNO Burke. These talks had resulted in a design proposal from Bethlehem for a one-stop replenishment ship that carried the fuel of an oiler and the ordnance of an ammunition ship. The ship had to be fast as she was to steam with the carrier task force and not as part of a separate underway replenishment group, and the result was a huge ship of 30 knots and 881 feet in length. 26 knots proved to be the best that could be achieved on an economical basis, although a huge engineering plant was still needed. Following the 1957 conference CNO Burke also directed the Bureau of Ships to initiate development of a highly automated missile underway replenishment system eventually known as FAST (Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer) which was designed to transfer a surface-to-air missile from a replenishment ship to a receiving ship every 90 seconds in a shock-mitigated environment without being touched by human hands using automated handling equipment both topsides and below decks.

According to a report dated 29 September 1959 on the preliminary design for the Fast Combat Support Ship (AOE), SCB Project No. 196, operational experience with battleships of the IOWA (BB 61) class for fuel replenishment of the carrier task force had demonstrated their superiority over conventional tankers during heavy weather. Based on this experience the SCB asked BUSHIPS to study conversion of the then-inactive IOWA class to combat oilers. The study demonstrated that the conversion would result in a substantially less efficient cargo carrier than the AO 143 class. Therefore the SCB on 31 January 1958 asked BUSHIPS to study a new design. The requirements of the new design were essentially to incorporate the sea keeping qualities of the IOWA class with the fuel capacity of the AO 143 type, the ammunition load of an AE, and substantial amounts of refrigerated and dry provisions. A sustained speed of 26 knots was specified. BUSHIPS modeled the hull form after that used in the NORTH CAROLINA battleships. BUSHIPS on 10 March 1958 reported the results of this study. On 31 March 1958 the Mission and Tasks for a Fast Combat Support Ship (AOE) were submitted for the first time to CNO for approval, the ship being either new construction or a battleship conversion. This new type of ship was to operate as an integral unit of a fast carrier task force and transport and rapidly deliver simultaneously petroleum products, missiles, nuclear ordnance, and limited provisions and fleet freight to the force underway, servicing ships along both sides at the same time. It was also to operate and support helicopters to perform the same functions (except fueling) and be able to receive all of the stated products from other ships. It was to be capable of limited self-defense at short range. The initial approved characteristics for a new construction fast combat support ship (AOE), SCB Project No. 196, were promulgated on 24 June 1958 and called for a 750' x 106' x 40' draft ship with 177,000 barrel liquid cargo capacity.

On 1 October 1958 the Deputy CNO (Logistics) complained to CNO that an AOE had been deleted from the FY 1960 program and that the program as approved by SECNAV included no fleet logistics support ships. "We thus continue to build combat ships which cannot be supported in war." He quoted the representative of CINCPACFLT at a November 1957 Mobile Logistics Support Conference as stating that "to spend billions of dollars for atomic age ships which cannot be supported in wartime is folly. To delude ourselves into believing that we can ever again wait until our warships are engaged in combat before we begin to build the logistic ships to support them is to invite disaster." DCNO (Logistics) concluded that "we are at the point of no return in our underway replenishment building program.... A single AOE must be provided in 1960 and followed by at least 5 additional AOE by 1964." The tentative FY 1961 program as of May 1959 included two AOE, but ultimately only four AOE were programmed between Fiscal Years 1961 (one ship) and 1966 with a fifth programmed and then cancelled in FY 1968 to pay for repairs to a SSN that accidentally sank while fitting out.

The approved AOE characteristics were updated on 17 June 1959 for the proposed FY 1961 ships, resulting in a 770' x 106' x 40' draft ship with a more refined ammunition cargo list and increased pumping capacities for NSFO and JP-5. On 29 June 1959 the dimensions in the preliminary design were modified with the draft decreased to 38'10" (later further reduced to 38' by reducing the depth of the tanks under the cargo holds by 2') and the beam increased to 108' (later reduced to 107' to increase Panama Canal clearance). On the same date the SCB asked BUSHIPS to make a feasibility and cost study for a sonar installation on the AOE, and an internal BUSHIPS memo of 13 August 1959 recommended installing in the ship, which would frequently be steaming independently in the vicinity of the carrier strike group which it supported, an AN/SQS-20 sonar. To permit anchoring without damaging the sonar this led to locating the transducer in a "window" on the forward side of the bulb on the bow and revising anchoring arrangements to include one anchor hawse in the bullnose and an emergency anchor on the port side forward. (The sonar was upgraded to an AN/SQS-23 in February 1961 when the SQS-20 failed in tests to meet expectations, but as of 1965 it had not been installed although space and weight were reserved.) In November 1959 the replenishment stations were relocated from the main deck to the 01 level to provide drier replenishment stations by increasing the effective freeboard and to provide a smooth platform for fork lift truck operations. At the same time the novel fore and aft replenishment gantry system that had been developed in the early 1950s to allow moving attachment points to match those on receiving ships was found to be unnecessary and was replaced with athwartship gantries similar to those already in use on several AO 143 class ships. This was followed by the relocation of the counterweights in the gantries to the centerline and then the adoption of gantry frames with an "M" section and sliding blocks for the ends of the highlines/spanwires. The ship had nine replenishment stations to port and six to atarbard. The stations were located for alignment with FORRESTAL (CVA-59) carriers to port and smaller ships to starboard. In December 1959 the number of helicopters to be carried was reduced from three to two following a similar decision for the AFS design. In order to reduce air turbulence in the helicopter landing area the after 3"/50 guns were relocated from the top of the helicopter hangar to the top of the after deckhouse. The preliminary design plans included two forward gun mounts on raised platforms 2'6" above the 01 level forward but these were moved during the contract design stage to conform to a new configuration of the deck house. A suggested design modification with a single deckhouse was considered at the end of 1959 but deferred. The design and contract plans were formally declared completed by the Ship Design Division (Code 410) on 4 August 1960 and technical control was transferred to the Bureau's Ships Division (Code 510). The machinery for AOE 1 and AOE 2 was taken from the incomplete IOWA class battleship KENTUCKY.

The ship was the first multiple product replenishment ship (fuels, ammunition, and stores) constructed for the Navy and was the first auxiliary ship with a speed of 26 knots (sustained) to allow her to travel with a carrier task force. CNO Burke was informed that she had a greater speed and power than any tanker ever built. She had approximately the same fuel capacity as the tankers of the AO 143 class plus the volume of an AE 21 class ammunition ship and also carried reefer products and dry cargo for issue. The main technical improvements included a new replenishment at sea system that completely eliminated the need for conventional booms and kingposts. The basic transfer system was an "M" frame structure with the end of the tensioned high line or span wire connected to a sliding block in the side of the "M" and supported by a counterweight or ram tensioner mounted at the center of the "M". (Receiving ships had sliding padeyes, often on short removable kingposts.) This concept, which became the STREAM (Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method) system, was first evaluated at sea for cargo transfers in March-April 1960 with one half of an "M" frame erected on USS VEGA (AF 59). At the same time a prototype STREAM refueling station, also with a ram tensioner, was installed in HASSAYAMPA (AO 145). Additional trials were conducted in November 1960 with VEGA and HALEAKALA (AE 25) in which the sliding block/sliding padeye system in VEGA transferred pallets at twice the rate of the counterweight rig in HALEAKALA. As a result of the VEGA trials, ram tensioners were specified at each replenishment station in place of counterweight systems, saving four fifths of the weight and cost of the older systems. The new equipment also allowed increasing the standard ship separation during replenishment to 200 feet or more from the 60-80 feet then specified for stores transfer, and the tensioners and winches were sized to allow safe high speed replenishment at 25 knots.

To handle ammunition and stores, SACRAMENTO was fitted with the first FAST (Fast Automated Shuttle Transfer) system. (27 ships were ultimately fitted.) The highly automated FAST system relied on the use of cranes to move missiles and cargo containers on weather decks, hoists to move cargo from the 01 level to the main deck, and elaborate shock mitigation equipment in the transfer system. On 5 August 1960 the chief of BUSHIPS noted to the Commander of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (the builder of AOE 1) that the design of the AOE incorporated a completely new concept in replenishment at sea which had been developed by BUSHIPS with the assistance of the Replenishment at Sea design group of the San Francisco Naval Shipyard and asked that the equipment for one missile transfer system, which required great precision, be completely tested at sea prior to completion of the AOE and prior to manufacture of the fittings for the remaining replenishment systems. The associated fueling at sea system also used M-frames, sliding blocks and ram tensioners but did not require the tolerances of the "dry" transfer rigs and the evaluation then (1960) being conducted in HASSAYAMPA (AO 145) would suffice. BUSHIPS first conducted an at-sea evaluation in PYRO of an experimental FAST masthead receiver in February 1961, and half of a prototype M-frame for SACRAMENTO (AOE 1) and MARS (AFS 1), reminiscent of the one tested in VEGA in 1960, was then mounted just forward of the bridge of HALEAKALA (AE 25) during a regular overhaul in December 1961-February 1962 and tested at sea in March 1962. These tests, however, did not extend to the below decks automated systems.

Approved characteristics were again updated as SCB Project No. 196 on 20 July 1962 for AOE 1 and 2, as SCB Project No. 196 on 15 March 1963, as SCB Project No. 711.65 on 26 November 1963 for AOE 3, as SCB Project No. 711.66 on 21 September 1965 probably for AOE 4, with a single final change on 16 April 1968 probably for AOE 5. Project No. 711.66 was essentially a repeat of previous AOE designs with minor changes based on experience gained from fleet operations with AOE 1. The main changes in Project No. 711.66 were to increase the amount of JP-5 carried at the expense of black fuel oil (NSFO) because of the presence of pressure fired boilers in the fleet and increasing JP-5 demands for aircraft support, to adjust the stowage for anti-aircraft missiles to 10% TALOS, 55% TERRIER, and 35% TARTAR, and to increase ship complement from 498 total enlisted to 589 total to allow adequate manning of underway replenishment stations. In September 1965 there was one AOE planned for FY 1966 which became AOE 4, with the program providing for five of these ships through FY 1972.

The FAST system proved to be a maintenance nightmare and in 1967 the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR) advised CNO that FAST was not fleetworthy because it could not be adequately maintained with existing resources. In December 1967 the DCNO for Fleet Operations and Readiness (OP 03) directed the cancellation of all construction and conversion for below decks FAST handling systems, and in 1968 he told NAVSHIPS to look at the design of a simpler UNREP system. In February 1968 a simplified version of FAST in which all below deck FAST automated handling systems were bypassed (forklift trucks being used instead) was tested in HALEAKALA (AE 25). By July 1968 a concept had been formulated for a simplified FAST called TRAM (Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method) that was similar to the STREAM (Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method) tested in VEGA in 1960 and that soon took its name. The new STREAM system reused as much already-installed FAST equipment as possible while omitting most of the FAST automated mechanisms including the below deck and topside missile handling systems and the shock mitigation equipment on the transfer rigs. The time to transfer missiles with the simplified STREAM system increased from the theoretical 90 seconds of FAST to a still acceptable five minutes. In 1971 both Pacific and Atlantic Fleets specified the STREAM sliding block/sliding padeye system to be the preferred UNREP method. The new STREAM system proved to be highly reliable and easily maintained and is still in use in 2022, although a new "Electric STREAM" is now entering service in the AO 205 class.

After delays due to 1970s financial shortfalls, SACRAMENTO was converted in 1977 from FAST to STREAM. Her elevators were modified to lift cargo directly to the 01 level, and the FAST cranes, transfer rails, and hoists were removed. Cargo was moved from hold to elevator to transfer station using standard electric forklift trucks which were far less prone to equipment malfunctions than the automated FAST mechanisms.

Ship Notes:
1SACRAMENTOFY 1961. BU complete 11 Jul 2008.
2CAMDENFY 1963. Decomm ceremony 29 Sep 2005, officially decomm./stk 14 Oct 2005. BU complete 13 May 2008.
3SEATTLEFY 1965. Arrived at breakers 9 Feb 2006. BU complete 26 Jan 2007.
4DETROITFY 1966. Decomm ceremony 22 Oct 2004, officially decomm./stk 17 Feb 2005. Arrived at breakers Oct 2005. BU complete 3 Nov 2006.
5unnamedFY 1968. Cancelled to pay for repairs to GUITARRO, SSN 665, which had flooded in drydock while fitting out on 15 May 1969.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 26 Sep 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Sources: NARA: RG19 Item S-13 Entry 1022-R(UD), RG19 Item S-13 Entry 1022-V(UD); Thomas Wildenberg, Gray Steel and Black Oil (Annapolis, 1996); Marvin O. Miller, Designing the U.S. Navy's Underway Replenishment System, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme, Cal., 1996.