Warships are cool. Warships are sexy. But if you want those warships to project power beyond your shores, you have to keep them resupplied. Let’s look at some of the ways the US Navy keeps its ships supplied. We’ll start with the Lewis and Clark class Dry Cargo Resupply ships, known by the hull code T-AKE.
The Lewis and Clark class are 689 feet long, 105.6 feet in beam, and have a design draft of 29.9 feet. They displace 41,000 tons and are designed to handle up to 6,005 tonnes or 783,000 cubic feet of dry cargo, plus 2,390 tonnes or 18,000 barrels of fuel. of the 6,005 tonnes of dry cargo, 1,557 tonnes are refrigerated storage. Dry cargo can include ammunition, frozen and dry food, consumables, and spare parts. The T-AKEs are equipped with US Navy Underway Replenishment equipment, and can resupply any US or allied vessel that is equipped with same.
The T-AKEs are all-electric ships, generating power with four diesel generators. They have one electrically-driven screw, plus a bow thruster for maneuvering in port. The electric drive system can propel the Lewis and Clark class ships at speeds of up to 20 knots. Electric power is also used to run the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). ASRS can work with any standard container, will retrieve containers in weather up to sea state 5, and will survive undamaged in weather up to sea state 9.
The Lewis and Clark class have a crew of 124 civilians and 11 naval personnel. A mostly civilian crew is what gives the ships the “T-” prefix on the hull type classification. At present, the T-AKEs do not have any active means of self defense, but there is space and topweight available for CIWS if this is desired in the future.
Also of note is that the T-AKEs are generally built to civilian standards, with some additions for increased survivability. This was to reduce costs, bypass any potential bottlenecks, and to produce a design that would also have a lot of marketability to the civilian merchant marine.