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USNS Zeus (ARC 7) ca. 1984.

USNS Zeus (ARC 7) ca. 1984.
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Class: ZEUS (T-ARC 7)
Design: Top level requirements of 12 October 1978
Displacement (tons): 9,446 light, 16,015 full
Dimensions (feet): 513.6' oa, 464'wl x 73' e/wl x 24' max nav
Armament: none
Accommodations: 21 officers, 65 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 15
Propulsion (HP): 12,500
Machinery: Diesel electric, 2 screws

7ZEUS17 Aug 1979National Steel San Diego1 Jun 198130 Oct 198219 Mar 1984

ARCNameTDecomm/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
7ZEUSTIn service 2021--------

Class Notes:
On 28 March 1978 Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James L. Holloway explained the Navy's FY 1979 cable ship program to the Senate Armed Service Committee chaired by Senator John C. Stennis. He informed the committee that the Navy's total requirement was four fully capable versatile cable repair ships, the number being based on a 75 percent availability rate. The Navy was then operating three cable ships, the two NEPTUNE class ships (T-ARC 2 and 6) and AEOLUS (T-ARC 3), and relying on commercial charter to cover remaining tasks. The NEPTUNE class ships had been designed and built as cable ships and were being modernized to extend their service life 10-15 years. CNO argued however that spending more money on AEOLUS was a particularly poor investment because her shallow draft (16 feet), large sail area, and absence of thrusters made position keeping during cable repair operations difficult, particularly for the heavy SD cable used in the SOSUS system. The shallow draft also made it effectively impossible to use the ship's fathometer for deep water hydrographic surveys because of air movement around the fathometer dome. The ship was also overweight after her cable ship conversion and could not carry a full load of fuel when carrying a full load of cable, reducing her already unacceptable opertional range of 3,500nm. Finally the ship had no capability for over-the-stern operations such as cable laying, repairs and plowing. The Navy therefore requested a new cable ship in Fiscal Year 1979 to replace AEOLUS.

That ship, ZEUS, was designed by NAVSEA and built in a commercial yard. Her preliminary design was completed in December 1977 and her contract design was completed in about December 1978. Top Level Requirements for T-ARC, Project No. 746.79, were promulgated on 12 October 1978. ZEUS became part of the MSC special mission force on 1 Oct 1984. Her completion allowed the retirement of the 40-year old AEOLUS. A second ship was planned, probably to fill out the four ship requirement mentioned in 1978, but it was never ordered. Following the retirement of NEPTUNE in 1991 and ALBERT J MYER in 1994, ZEUS became the navy's only dedicated cable layer.

ZEUS's primary mission upon entering service was to support the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS), renamed in 1985 to the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS). As such her functions included transporting, deploying, retrieving and repairing submarine cables and testing underwater sound devices, with a secondary mission of conducting acoustic, hydrographic, and bathymetric (deepsea) surveys.

As of 2021 ZEUS was fitted with a wide array of cable handling equipment including five [originally four?] cable tanks, cable transporters, cable tension machines, self-fleeting cable drums, overboarding sheaves and a dynamometer cable fairleader. She could lay up to 1,000 miles of cable in depths of up to 9,000 feet without resupply for repair operations on existing cables. ZEUS was also equipped with both single-beam and multi-beam sonars for bottom profiling and could deploy towed sidescan sonars and camera sleds. Current, temperature and density systems, deployed acoustic measurement buoys and environmental measurement buoys also provided data measurement of the ocean environment. Structures at the stern (some added after completion) formed a Heavy Overboarding System including a 72,000-pound A-frame and capable of deploying heavy equipment including free swimming heavy Cable Repair Systems, a 250 hp Sea Tractor for cable burial and deployment from either ship or a beach, and a 31,000-pound Sea Plow for cable burial.

Five 3,600 brake horsepower General Motors diesels each driving a General Electric 2,500 kVA, 60 Hz, 600 volt alternator provided the ship's power. Fourteen rectifiers supplied 750 volt direct current for the two General Electric 5,000 brake horsepower propulsion motors. All engines could be on line providing maximum propulsion power for transit speeds while some engines might be shut down for lower speed work with cables.

Several contracts were awarded in 2021 to study the replacement of the now 40-year old ship with a new T-ARC(X), which would have essentially the same missions and functions.

Ship Notes:
7ZEUSFY 1979. Name assigned 12 Mar 1981. Still in service with MSC as a Special Mission Ship 2023.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 26 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021