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USS Milwaukee (AOR 2) in 1969 on builder's trials.

USS Milwaukee (AOR 2) in 1969 on builder's trials.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class: WICHITA (AOR 1)
Design: Project Nos. SCB 707.65, 707.66, and 707.72. The FY 1964 version was SCB 235.
Displacement (tons): 13,191 light, 39,287 full
Dimensions (feet): 659' oa, 640' wl x 96' e/wl x 35' max nav
Armament: (1: 1969) 2-3"/50T; (2-4: 1971) 2-3"/50T, 2-20mmT; (5: 1971) 1-MK25 MLS, 2-3"/50T; (2-6: 1974) 2-3"/50T; (2: 1976) 4-20mmS; (3, 7: 1976) 1-MK29 MLS; (1: 1979) none; (6: 1979) 4-20mmS; (7: 1979) 1-MK29 MLS, 2-20mmS; (4-5: 1981-83) 1-MK29 MLS, 2-CIWS; (6: 1983) 4-20mmS, 2-CIWS; (7: 1983) 1-MK29 MLS, 2-20mmS, 2-CIWS; (6-7: 1986, 3: 1988) 1-MK29 MLS, 2 CIWS; (2: 1988) 1-MK29 MLS, 2-CIWS, 2-20mmS
Accommodations: 31 officers and 436 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 20
Propulsion (HP): 32,000
Machinery: 2 steam turbines, 3 boilers (600psi), 2 screws

1WICHITA2 Jun 1965General Dynamics, Quincy18 Jun 196616 Mar 19687 Jun 1969
2MILWAUKEE2 Jun 1965General Dynamics, Quincy29 Nov 196617 Jan 19691 Nov 1969
3KANSAS CITY6 Jul 1966General Dynamics, Quincy18 Apr 196828 Jun 19696 Jun 1970
4SAVANNAH6 Jul 1966General Dynamics, Quincy22 Jan 196923 Apr 19705 Dec 1970
5WABASH19 Jul 1967General Dynamics, Quincy21 Jan 19706 Feb 197120 Nov 1971
6KALAMAZOO19 Jul 1967General Dynamics, Quincy28 Oct 197011 Nov 197211 Aug 1973
7ROANOKE15 Dec 1972National Steel, San Diego19 Jan 19747 Dec 197430 Oct 1976

AORNameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
1WICHITA12 Mar 199315 Feb 199518 Dec 1998MA/T4 Feb 2013
2MILWAUKEE27 Jan 19948 Apr 199724 Feb 2001MA/T14 Jan 2009
3KANSAS CITY7 Oct 19948 Apr 199724 Feb 2001MA/T11 Jun 2013
4SAVANNAH28 Jul 199529 Oct 199828 Jul 2001MA/TJan 2009
5WABASH30 Sep 19948 Apr 199718 Dec 1998MA/T1 Oct 2012
6KALAMAZOO16 Aug 199629 Oct 199824 Feb 2001MA/T11 Aug 2008
7ROANOKE6 Oct 19956 Oct 199518 Dec 1998MA/T1 Oct 2012

Class Notes:
For the early history of the Replenishment Fleet Tanker (AOR) type see the page for CONECUH (AO 110). In 1954 CONECUH, now AOR 110 after an experimental conversion, was deployed to the Sixth Fleet and completely evaluated between March and May. The evaluation produced five conclusions: (a) The employment of an AOR could decrease the overall transfer time by approximately one half for DD types and CA/CL types; (b) The employment of an AOR could materially reduce approach, rigging, unrigging, and breakaway times; (c) The advantages of an AOR were marginal in support of a carrier; (d) CONECUH transfer rates could be improved with better gear and arrangement; and (e) Receiving stations should be standardized for all ships of the various types. On 8 October 1954 COMSERVLANT advised that the dawn to dusk replenishments currently in use were unrealistic in the face of current air and submarine threats and that the AOR was the only substantial solution for achieving a reduction in the time of a single replenishment operation. COMSERVLANT estimated that 6 AOR could do the work of 5 AO, 4 AF, and 4 AE of existing types and recommended that the FY 1956 program for auxiliary ships be modified to provide for the construction of a prototype AOR and that the construction of two high performance AKS (SCB 115) under the program be deferred for further study. (The program was also to include one high performance AO (SCB 82), two AE (SCB 114), and one APA conversion.) On 2 November 1954 CINCLANTFLT endorsed this recommendation but wanted the AOR to have a speed of 25 knots. On 6 December 1954 CNO requested BUSHIPS to prepare preliminary design studies of an AOR. On 22 March 1955 BUSHIPS submitted preliminary design studies for three variants, one with a speed of 20 knots, one of 25 knots, and one of 30 knots. In July 1955 the CNO Mobile Logistic Support Board rejected the AOR concept, but in the event that higher authority decided to accept the concept it approved a ship with characteristics relatively in agreement with the 20-knot ship in the BUSHIPS preliminary design study. This AOR was included as Project 175 in a draft FY 1958 program proposed on 16 May 1956. Missions and tasks for an AOR based on the experience with CONECUH were approved on 27 September 1956 and CNO recommended the FY 1958 program with it to SECNAV on 23 October 1956, but SECNAV returned the program on 14 December 1956 for major reductions which removed the AOR and most other auxiliaries from the program. The tentative 5-year program then rescheduled it to the FY 1962 program.

As of 1957 the concept of a Replenishment Fleet Tanker (AOR) meant widely differing things to different people. CINCLANTFLT wanted a high performance (25 knot) AOR as an "integral part of a striking force," with a change to nuclear power in 1963. CINCPACFLT wanted two versions of AOR, one resembling the LANTFLT version and a smaller AOR for "barrier and/or ASW forces." The Logistic Plans Division of the Standing Committee, Shipbuilding and Conversion, rejected the concept of a high performance AOR based on the grounds that the ship would be very expensive and would carry so little of each product as to be ineffective, but it supported the inclusion in the FY 1958 program of a moderate performance, moderate cost AOR with the mission of supporting destroyers and other small types. It would be roughly equivalent to an AO 143 class oiler fitted for the efficient handling of solid cargo as well as fuel but was not intended to replace the AO nor to compete with the new AOE.

CINCLANTFLT's high performance AOR became the AOE, leaving to the AOR lesser roles such as CINCPACFLT's support of "barrier and/or ASW forces." Back in 1953 the Navy had created the designation CVS (ASW Support Aircraft Carrier) for ESSEX-class carriers downgraded from the attack role, soon producing additional carrier groups with World War II-vintage ships in need of logistic support. Between 1958 and 1960 the nomenclature for the AOR type changed from Replenishment Fleet Tanker to Replenishment Fleet Oiler. As of April 1960 a new AOR was planned for construction under the FY 1963 program, most likely primarily to support CVS groups. New Missions and Tasks were forwarded on 19 April 1960 for approval as the previous AOR Missions and Tasks were outdated, having been developed for the CONECUH conversion. On 15 October 1962 the SCB promulgated proposed characteristics for a Replenishment Fleet Oiler (AOR), SCB Project No. 235, that was then scheduled for FY 1964. It noted that these were similar to the approved characteristics for a new construction AO, SCB Project No. 217 of 20 September 1961, except for an approved change in missions and tasks, provisions for carrying 525 tons of freight including 100 tons of refrigerated provisions and 175 tons of ordnance including missiles and special weapons, and provision for three FAST (Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer) stations. (See the AOE 1 class for a description and history of FAST.) After the AOR was deferred again to FY 1965, new approved characteristics for a Replenishment Oiler (AOR), SCB Project No. 707.65 (AOR 1-2), were promulgated on 12 August 1964. They were updated as SCB Project No. 707.66 (AOR 3-6) on 3 Sep 1964 and as SAIC Project No. 707.72 (AOR 7) on 24 February 1972. AOR 7 was added to the class in Fiscal Year 1972 after a funding hiatus for auxiliary vessels at the end of the 1960s due to the Vietnam War. By the time the AORs entered service many of the CVS carriers had been decommissioned, leaving the new auxiliaries without a clear mission and consigned to roles for which they had not been designed.

The WICHITA class AORs began to enter service in 1970 and were pressed into service to supplement the two WESTPAC AOEs, SACRAMENTO and CAMDEN, in supporting the attack carrier task forces on Yankee Station. Designed to support ASW task forces, the AORs had only one-fifth the cargo ammo and one-half the ammo transfer stations of an AOE. FAST having been abandoned, the ships instead had four STREAM stations, two on each side. An AOR could only send two STREAM rigs for ammo to aircraft carriers on her port side, compared to the four rigs on the port side of an AOE. This would double the time to rearm an aircraft carrier. To compensate, the AOR jury-rigged a burton whip off of each STREAM kingpost to make the two starboard side stations available as well. The burton whip operator, however, was located on the starboard side of the ship while trying to transfer ammo from the portside. A SHIPALT was developed to allow a sailor to operate the starboard outhaul winch by dual controls on the port side, but AOR 1-2 could not receive this capability until the late 1970s because their winches were incompatible with the SHIPALT. During Vietnam operations AORs and the three jumboized AO 51 class ships which had similar capabilities also developed jury rigs for carrying extra palletized ammo on deck when transiting the relatively short distance from Subic Bay to Yankee Station. (The ammo was stowed in main deck spaces originally intended for the FAST missile handling system that was deleted during construction/conversion.) This did not work for the much longer Indian Ocean transits during the Iran Hostage crisis of 1979-81 and the AOR had to be accompanied by an AE. The 20-knot speed of the AOR and AE sometimes delayed the faster carrier battle groups.

WABASH reportedly had a MK-25 Sea Sparrow basic point-defense missile system box launcher and its MK-115 radar illuminator installed immediately after completion. The system was then being installed on the BLUE RIDGE (LCC 19), TARAWA (LHA 1), KNOX (DE 1052), and a few other classes. If the system was installed on WABASH, it was removed within a year or two. The AORs were designed without a hangar or organic helicopter support facilities, and a large helicopter hangar was added aft between 1976 and 1982, displacing the ships' two 3"/50 twin gun mounts. ROANOKE was completed with this configuration. KANSAS CITY received the MK-29 NATO Sea Sparrow missile system in the mid-1970s and the others except WICHITA followed in the 1980s. All seven ships also eventually received close-in weapons system (CIWS) Gatling gun mounts. None of the ships saw service in MSC.

Ship Notes:
1WICHITAFY 1965. To MA custody in SBRF 7 Apr 1994. To buyer (Int’l Shipbr. Ltd, Brownsville) and departed for breakers 6 Mar 2013.
2MILWAUKEEFY 1965. To MA custody 9 Aug 2000. To buyer (Bay Bridge Enterprises, Chesapeake, VA) 10 Feb 2009.
3KANSAS CITYFY 1966. To MA custody 2 Sep 1999. To buyer (All Star Metals LLC, Brownsville) 31 Jul 2013.
4SAVANNAHFY 1966. To MA custody 27 Jul 2000. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 24 Feb 2009. BU complete 23 Sep 2009.
5WABASHFY 1967. To MA custody in SBRF 23 Dec 1997. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 14 Nov 2012.
6KALAMAZOOFY 1967. To MA custody 3 Aug 2000. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 30 Sep 2008.
7ROANOKEFY 1972. To MA custody in SBRF 12 Oct 1995. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 29 Nov 2012.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 26 Sep 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: RG 19 Entry P 62 Box 75 (SCB 235), RG 19 Entry P 26 Box 21; 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.