VESSEL REVIEW | John Lewis – Lead ship of new US Navy replenishment oiler class

VESSEL REVIEW | John Lewis – Lead ship of new US Navy replenishment oiler class

Photo: General Dynamics NASSCO

The US Navy recently took delivery of the lead ship of a new class of fleet replenishment oilers (T-AOs).

USNS John Lewis honours the late African-American congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis. The ship has a length of 746 feet (227 metres), a beam of 106 feet (32.4 metres), a maximum draught of 33.5 feet (10.2 metres), a displacement of 24,818 tons (22,515 tonnes) and a crew complement of 125 including 99 civilian mariners. Two Fairbanks-Morse/MAN 12V48/60CR four-stroke diesel engines drive conventional propellers to deliver a speed of 20 knots and a range of over 6,140 nautical miles.

The vessel will be operated by the Military Sealift Command to provide diesel fuel and lubricating oil and small quantities of fresh and frozen provisions, stores, and potable water to US Navy ships at sea, as well as jet fuel for aircraft. The ship also boasts the capacity to carry up to 157,000 barrels of oil, a significant dry cargo capacity, and aviation capability courtesy of a helicopter deck.

Photo: General Dynamics NASSCO

The design of the John Lewis-class incorporates a double hull to protect against oil spills. There are also strengthened cargo and ballast tanks and dry cargo transfer rigs, while on either side of the ship are stations that will enable it to perform underway replenishment.

As an auxiliary ship, John Lewis is fitted only with defensive armament consisting of multiple M2 Browning 12.7mm crew-served machine guns for use against small hostile boats. Ample power reserves and onboard space are available should it become necessary to equip the vessel with more potent weaponry such as launchers for SeaRAM surface-to-air missiles and a Phalanx 20mm close-in weapon system. An AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed decoy that emits signals will help protect the ship against torpedo attack.

Construction of the T-AO was done in compliance to the American Bureau of Shipping’s steel vessel rules at General Dynamics NASSCO’s shipyard in San Diego, California. Three other John Lewis-class ships are presently under construction at NASSCO while contracts were recently signed for another two sister vessels. The navy intends to acquire a total of 20 such ships to support its own operations as well as those of the US Department of Defense worldwide.

The John Lewis-class ships will replace the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oilers, which have been in service with the US Navy since the mid-1980s and have smaller dry cargo capacities.

Click here for more news stories, feature articles, and vessel reviews as part of this month’s focus on maritime security vessels.

USNS John Lewis
Type of vessel: Fleet replenishment oiler
Classification: American Bureau of Shipping
Flag: USA
Owner: US Navy
Operator: Military Sealift Command, USA
Builder: General Dynamics NASSCO, USA
Hull construction material: Steel
Superstructure construction material: Steel
Deck construction material: Steel
Length overall: 746 feet (227 metres)
Beam: 106 feet (32.4 metres)
Draught: 33.5 feet (10.2 metres)
Displacement: 24,818 tons (22,515 tonnes)
Capacity: 157,000 barrels
Main engines: 2 x Fairbanks-Morse/MAN 12V48/60CR
Propulsion: 2 x propellers
Maximum speed: 20 knots
Range: 6,140 nautical miles
Armaments: M2 Browning 12.7mm machine guns
Other equipment installed: AN/SLQ-25 Nixie anti-torpedo towed decoy; dry cargo transfer rigs; underway replenishment stations
Type of fuel: Diesel
Crew: 125

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