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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
|1||WICHITA||2 Jun 1965||General Dynamics, Quincy||18 Jun 1966||16 Mar 1968||7 Jun 1969|
|2||MILWAUKEE||2 Jun 1965||General Dynamics, Quincy||29 Nov 1966||17 Jan 1969||1 Nov 1969|
|3||KANSAS CITY||6 Jul 1966||General Dynamics, Quincy||18 Apr 1968||28 Jun 1969||6 Jun 1970|
|4||SAVANNAH||6 Jul 1966||General Dynamics, Quincy||22 Jan 1969||23 Apr 1970||5 Dec 1970|
|5||WABASH||19 Jul 1967||General Dynamics, Quincy||21 Jan 1970||6 Feb 1971||20 Nov 1971|
|6||KALAMAZOO||19 Jul 1967||General Dynamics, Quincy||28 Oct 1970||11 Nov 1972||11 Aug 1973|
|7||ROANOKE||15 Dec 1972||National Steel, San Diego||19 Jan 1974||7 Dec 1974||30 Oct 1976|
|1||WICHITA||12 Mar 1993||15 Feb 1995||18 Dec 1998||MA/T||4 Feb 2013|
|2||MILWAUKEE||27 Jan 1994||8 Apr 1997||24 Feb 2001||MA/T||14 Jan 2009|
|3||KANSAS CITY||7 Oct 1994||8 Apr 1997||24 Feb 2001||MA/T||11 Jun 2013|
|4||SAVANNAH||28 Jul 1995||29 Oct 1998||28 Jul 2001||MA/T||Jan 2009|
|5||WABASH||30 Sep 1994||8 Apr 1997||18 Dec 1998||MA/T||1 Oct 2012|
|6||KALAMAZOO||16 Aug 1996||29 Oct 1998||24 Feb 2001||MA/T||11 Aug 2008|
|7||ROANOKE||6 Oct 1995||6 Oct 1995||18 Dec 1998||MA/T||1 Oct 2012|
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 imporved 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 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. Missions and tasks for an AOR based on the experience with CONECUH were approved on 27 September 1956 and an AOR as recommended by Fleet Commanders was included in the FY 1958 Shipbuilding Program. The prototype AOR was deleted from the FY 1958 program in around 1957 by financial limitations, with the tentative 5-year program rescheduling 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. Between 1958 and 1960 the nomenclature for the AOR type changed from Replenishment Fleet Tanker to Replenishment Fleet Oiler.
The high performance AOR of 1957 became the AOE, leaving to the AOR lesser roles such as supporting "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. 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.
|1||WICHITA||FY 1965. To MA custody in SBRF 7 Apr 1994. To buyer (Int’l Shipbr. Ltd, Brownsville) and departed for breakers 6 Mar 2013.|
|2||MILWAUKEE||FY 1965. To MA custody 9 Aug 2000. To buyer (Bay Bridge Enterprises, Chesapeake, VA) 10 Feb 2009.|
|3||KANSAS CITY||FY 1966. To MA custody 2 Sep 1999. To buyer (All Star Metals LLC, Brownsville) 31 Jul 2013.|
|4||SAVANNAH||FY 1966. To MA custody 27 Jul 2000. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 24 Feb 2009. BU complete 23 Sep 2009.|
|5||WABASH||FY 1967. To MA custody in SBRF 23 Dec 1997. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 14 Nov 2012.|
|6||KALAMAZOO||FY 1967. To MA custody 3 Aug 2000. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 30 Sep 2008.|
|7||ROANOKE||FY 1972. To MA custody in SBRF 12 Oct 1995. To buyer (ESCO Marine, Brownsville) 29 Nov 2012.|
Compiled: 26 Sep 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: RG 19 Item S-13 Entry P 62 Box 75 (SCB 235); 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.