From Prison Ship to Mobile Aid Station: Inside the Navy’s “Lego” Support Vessel

17.06.09

Categorie: David Axe, Naval, Reality Check |

by DAVID AXE

Make no mistake, U.S. Navy shipbuilding is a disaster, with rampant delays, cost over-runs and poor workmanship. But the T-AKE cargo ships, built by NASSCO in San Diego, are an exception. The Navy has rewarded NASSCO by adding two more of the $500-million vessels to the original plan for a dozen — and more are possible.

Navy undersecretary Bob Work, during his think-tank days, called on the Navy to adapt the T-AKE design to a wider range of missions, beyond the traditional job of hauling supplies to deployed warships. T-AKEs could become oilers, command ships and other auxiliaries. The key is a simple, robust design, with lots of “reconfigurable” empty space, like a Lego ship.

Don’t believe me? Off the coast of Somalia, the Navy is using T-AKE 1 Lewis and Clark as a makeshift prison. And the Pacific Fleet tapped T-AKE 4 Richard E. Byrd to carry doctors, engineers and other humanitarians on a good-will tour of Oceania, after the crew of the amphibious ship, originally tapped for the mission, came down with swine flu. Commodore Andrew Cully said the switch to Byrd meant he had to trim his mission staff from 400 to 200. But he was able to reconfigure the ship with:

* Extra cots in the berthing and staterooms
* Cargo spaces for engineering equipment
* A helicopter detachment
* A bandwidth boost from 128 kb/sec to 486 kb/sec

An amphib would be better, but in a pinch, the T-AKE will do — and might do for a range of other missions, too. And at $500 million a pop, you can’t beat the price.

(Photo: David Axe)

Related
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Inside the Navy’s Pirate Prison Ship
What Works, Part One: T-AKE

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3 Responses to “From Prison Ship to Mobile Aid Station: Inside the Navy’s “Lego” Support Vessel”

  1. Steve W says:

    Is there a big difference in performance between West Coast, East Coast and Gulf Coast shipyards?

    Would this idea be related/descended fro mthe “Arapaho” program?

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/arapaho.htm

  2. [...] Call For T-AKE Motherships 2009 June 19 tags: Warfare off the shelf by Mike Burleson This from David Axe goes along with yesterday’s post on “auxiliary warships”: Make no mistake, U.S. Navy shipbuilding is a disaster, with rampant delays, cost over-runs and poor workmanship. But the T-AKE cargo ships, built by NASSCO in San Diego, are an exception. The Navy has rewarded NASSCO by adding two more of the $500-million vessels to the original plan for a dozen — and more are possible. [...]

  3. B.Smitty says:

    A half billion for a glorified cargo ship is still pretty darn expensive.

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