Fourth arm of Defence

Well, Western allies have seen fit to go ahead and make Assads day more glum. Unless Russia and Iran are bluffing, this could possibly lead to retaliatory strikes in that region. So this got me to thinking about how the Merhant Marine is auxillary support for the Navy and what entails from that job description. You normally hear about the unlimited tonnage boats being used to carry cargo and such but what about the smaller vessels and their operators? OSV, FSV, Tenders, Tugs, ATB, etc.

What do you want to know. Several operators in almost every segment have a military contract or two.

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The OP wasn’t in regards to a contract, but I can see how they are beneficial. Given todays surplus of OSVs lying around the coastal states, can those be pulled or even vessels on private contracts to perform as support for the military in a time of war?

In times of war or conflict you use whatever assets that are made available. Whether or not they are the most efficient is something totally different.

what is the point of asking this? Syria will be just like it always has been with only airstrikes and cruise missles. there will be no need for a sealift to put boots on the ground and even if there was, TRANSCOM has plenty of big ships at their disposal to call upon. If you are wishing to see lots of out of work OSVs get contracts, you are wishing in vain

I’m not pretending to be ignorant. I am generally unfamiliar with how merchant mariners will be called upon other than those vessels and crews that are specifically designed to assist in wartime. I could care less which boat from whatever bayou is pulled but the question was if it was an option that was available.

What is the point of being a jerk? The guy asked a question. Train your relief, don’t eat your young.


To the OP, short of a general war there probably isn’t much need for OSVs though. Just not enough carrying capacity or the legs to get to the fight. If we had to defend the Philippine Archipelago or the Aleutians however I could see the utility of OSVs running supplies instead of a deep-draft cargo ship. In any event, if there was a mass-mobilization of shipping the jobs those vessels left behind would still need to be done; perhaps that’s where the OSVs could make their impact, keeping the homefront going.

just look to the sealifts to the Persian Gulf in 1990 and 2003 to find your answers. The DoD breaks out a fleet of old ships, the unions desperately look for any warm body to man them and in the meantime life goes on for all the rest of the domestic US maritime industry. Tugs, ferries, osvs and the like continue to operate exactly as they do in normal times

If this is talking about converting vessels to naval service then look into our new tugs. DP-2 and all. These are new builds though. Were also taking from what I’ve heard 6 modified alaska class tankers as afloat basing.
Harbor tugs are contracted the big bases have a dedicated contract but the foreign ports we just used what is available. Mcallister for norfolk ECO for san diego. Last i heard the gitmo supply ship was an ATB but I’m not to sure on that.

I would debate that, many of the ones sitting in the bayous waiting for work are a good deal larger than some fairly commonly used WW2 era Navy transport ships, like the Camano class for example. They could prove to be extremely handy getting into smaller ports without requiring tugs, not to mention the ability to DP alongside larger vessels to offload or transfer cargo rapidly.

Smaller ships got the job done island hopping in the Pacific. I would imagine that newer, more capable OSVs could fulfill the same roles anywhere.

The navy already has plans for both of those situations. The bob hope class can offload onto the montford point class to a LCAC. We also have the ability to transfer fuel ashore from out at sea. The idea behind the JHSV was a quick reaction force type attack on a undefended port. The ships carry blowup fenders if we need them and can position them with the FRB. Drop the ramp onto a useable pier and offload and get back out. JHSV rarely use tugs.

The Navy does not now, and it’s highly unlikely that they will ever, have the capacity to handle a full sealift operation. That’s including MSC.


Care to mention who built the VADM Wheeler? And I’m pretty confident that it’s a conversion of an OSV design…

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Up to what sea state have they tested the Bob Hope class - Montford Point Class transfers? I know guys who were on for the first few attempts and my understanding was that unless the seas were less than 3’ and the wind dead calm that it turned into a shitshow pretty quickly.

Also, it’s a good thing we’ve got a bunch of the Wheeler class in case something happens to the Wheeler. Oh wait… nevermind.

Moran has the contract for Norfolk, and for the majority of US based overseas they operate their own tugs. I don’t believe there is an ATB running to gitmo except for fuel occasionally.

Not saying its perfect just saying we got the capabilities. Can any other ship do what the wheeler can? Yankee you maybe right I just remember the M. I’m not sure what port you think they run their own tugs out of though. Japan maybe?
Louis I’m not saying its perfect but a OSV wont be delivering tanks without some serious mods. my reply on that was to JB as it would be redunant with a montford point and a RO/RO.
RRF isnt what it was 10 years ago any major war is going to require more than we have already contracted. unless we have full control of an area no civilian ship will be entering it especially OSVs the navy just won’t have enough escorts. How many of those bayou boys know how to run a screen kilo? It’s not hard but the first time they would run it would be in war conditions. OSVs would have a role to play in supplying outlying garrisons and are highly adaptable as evident by the militaries current use of them.
Beside small scale supply missions what role do you see in a war for an OSV? One that hasn’t been talked about yet is a surge capability to tow. MSC is currently down to just 4 active tugs and salvage boats though the other 4 should be able to be activated fairly quickly.

A vast majority of military cargo is things other than tanks, or even other rolling cargo.

Why beside that?

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Because all you have to do is throw on a couple foundations, a couple conex boxes, and an overboarding system for RHIBs, and a tigershark can be as well armed and armored as a LCS, either variant?


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I think at that point though you’d be entering some interesting waters for the rules of war. As I understand it that’s why the ESBs went from USNS to USS.

do you honestly believe MSC and TRANSCOM have formulated any plans to utilize any vessels other than merchant ships to supply US forces overseas and if they haven’t formulated any plans already, how on earth you would expect them to suddenly be open to using them even for shuttle missions in theater? We are talking about a military that has very little knowledge of vessels which they are not used to using and an even more closed mind to try something new. Plus smaller vessels simply do not make sense to use as they require different facilities to load and unload (ie no ramps) and their very poor economy of scale makes them fiscally unattractive to use. Frankly I see no way whatsoever that the DoD would consider small vessels for a surge sealift or at least not until every other form of transport was in use including foreign flagged ships