They may be unglamorous, but underway replenishment vessels are some of the hardest-worked assets in the U.S. Fleet. Operated by the Military Sealift Command, the 31 replenishment ships of the Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force spent 5,036 days at sea during the last fiscal year. On average, every available U.S. Fleet replenishment oiler is active and under way for more than six months each year, making America’s oilers the most fully committed components of the Combat Logistics Force (CLF).1
At this pace, how long can the Navy’s middle-aged fuel-distribution platforms remain reliable assets?
American fuel-distributing ships are no longer new. The Supply-class underway replenishment vessels, a fleet of four fast combat-support ships built to accompany and resupply carrier battle groups, first entered the water two decades ago. Sixteen slower, less ambitious “single-product” Henry J. Kaiser–class fleet replenishment oilers were delivered between 1986 and 1996.