Over the last few weeks, USNS Comfort has been part of the Haiti zeitgeist, both in America and overseas. The ship appears in hundreds of stories, articles, videos, and blog posts. Her white hull has become a symbol of United States humanitarianism in Haiti. However, the converted oil tanker’s original primary purpose was to support combat operations, not conduct the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions that gained her renown. So I ask the readers, if you were to design the next generation of hospital ship, the next USNS Comfort, what would the vessel look like? Here are some of my own thoughts.

Small, Fast, And Shallow

As previously mentioned on the USNI blog, USNS Comfort arrived off the coast of Haiti slightly over 88 hours after the earthquake. In that time, the converted oil tanker, manned by only a skeleton crew, was stocked with supplies, staffed with medical personnel from multiple services and NGOs, and sailed down the Atlantic coast. In getting the massive ship from a pier in New England Baltimore to a disaster zone in the Caribbean, the crew proved themselves to be true professionals. Impressive is not strong enough a word to describe their accomplishment, it was Herculean. And, that is the problem.

To maximize effectiveness, rapid arrival on station after a disaster should occur because of the ship’s design, not in spite of it. Hospital ships must be small, fast, and shallow. They must operate in areas with small, damaged, or no ports. They must navigate waterways littered with debris without assistance and anchor in the shallow waters close to shore. Most importantly, hospital ships must be fast. Arriving in the first 24 hours is orders of magnitude more helpful than arriving in the first 48 hours, or 88.

Dedicated Medical Team

Instead of staffing hospital ships with an ad hoc complement of riders, hospital ships deserve dedicated medical contingents. Dedicated medical team would reduce deployment time and improve mission effectiveness. I am not discounting the importance of NGOs such as Project Hope, but rather suggesting that NGO health professionals should supplement a core medical team that has trained and worked with each other and with the ship. Many will say the armed forces do not have enough medical personnel. They are right, but that does mean we should not do it. Rather, it only means we must train more personnel.

Update: Leesea has some great thoughts in the comment section below. Check them out.




Posted by Christopher Albon in Navy, Soft Power
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  • leesea

    Since when is Baltimore in New England?
    Speaking as someone involved in introducing the class to the fleet back in the mid-’80s, I think this is not the right approach. As always one needs to define the actual ship rqmts. So I ask:
    What it the world does high speed add to the medical capabilities? They still have to get the ship crewed, the MYF staff assemabled, all perishables onboard and the ship fueled before it departs its homeport.
    Since when is small a good feature? Go ask the medicos in the Comfort’s MTF if they want a smaller hospital?
    How do you justify having 250 to 1000 medical personnel assigned to a hospital in resevre status?
    Or maybe you think the small shallow draft hospital ship should sail up the Potomac River?
    My next post is my concept for Multi-Mission Support ship which focuses on the medical aspects of HA/DR.

  • leesea

    T-MMS Concept Paper
    Multi-Mission Support Ship Concept:
    There is an apparent need for ships to support several missions falling in between the sealift transport and fleet auxiliary ship types. The missions that such ships could perform include: humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, Station Ship, or forward afloat logistics support (to include LCS support). These ships can supplant or augment the large wet well amphibious assault ships or big hospital ships which are often used for such missions currently. They should be called “handy size” multi-mission support ships. I believe that civilian mariners can quite adequately crew them.

    Proposal:
    The US Navy can acquire this type of ship economically by converting existing ships. There are two T-LKAs, the ex-USNS El Paso and ex-USNS Mobile in NISMF at Philadelphia which are possible platforms for the T-MSS concept. Estimated cost to finish the El Paso is $35 million while the Mobile may cost as much as $50 million.

    Ship requirements:
    Based on current mission descriptions and prior knowledge of prepositioning ships, the following functions appear needed necessary across several support missions:
    – A large superstructure to provide messing and berthing spaces not only for the ships’ crew, but also for embarked military teams and NGOs.
    – A significant organic medical treatment facility (MTF) with employment ashore by carrying additional emergency modular facilities (EMF).
    – A large helo facility including hanger space for operation and maintenance of at least two H-60 type helicopter with adequate fuel tankage. Flight deck large enough to land up to CH-53/CH-47 helos
    – Organic lighterage of at least two LCM-8 type landing craft as well as at least two utility boats for personnel transfer (MPF lighter preferred).
    – Organic cargo gear to discharge any cargo and lighters in a seaway.
    – Multiple accessible cargo holds to stow reconstruction and relief materials to include SeaBee equipment.
    – Convertible cargo spaces suitable for stowing, supporting and accessing Modular Facilities for a medical treatment facility i.e. container cells.
    – Additional large capacity water making systems with some equipment to pump ashore.
    – Increased auxiliary generator capacity for internal and external power distribution (inport).

    Some specific conversion details regarding further conversion of T-LKAs: the following is recommended: (stern to bow)
    – Enlarge the flight deck at its forward end for two helo spots to include a hanger and aviation support bays.
    – Modify elevator #5 provides for pax/light cargo from flight deck to main deck.
    – Build covered passageways aft on main deck to medical receiving area in superstructure.
    – Remove the after cargo gear (Stulken mast) and replace with two articulated hydraulic 30 ton capacity cranes to support both after holds.
    – Install a large water maker in the forward part of number three hold.
    – Install a construction support facility (i.e. shops) in after part of number three hold.
    – Install transverse container racks in number four hold for Modular Facilities and/or medical containers.
    – Enlarge the superstructure aft over the forward part of number 4 hold. The superstructure will provide general accommodations in addition to the troop and crew spaces which were started under the original T-ship conversion.
    – Add davits or cranes port and stbd to lift newer lighterage (two each LCVP or MPF lighters) and other small boats such as RHIBs for force protection and utility purposes.
    – Install modern military communications suite in original spaces and install full commercial INMARSAT suite as well as military satellite antennas.
    – Install ship self-defense weapons in the existing gun tubs.
    – Make deck equipment in the forward part of the ship operational.

    Operational deployment:
    The key to many HA/DR missions is timeliness. Presence is provided by several ships being operational in forward areas. I believe T-MMS should be forward deployed in key ports of proximity to known problem areas. Since civilian crewed ships can be forward deployed more readily than warships (due to easier port access and using mariners on rotational assignments), T-MMS could be kept crewed in FOS without the military teams, NGOs and other personnel. Those personnel can easily join the ships once an activation order is received. The ship’s crew would monitor cargo readiness and load any additional cargo based on actual missions. More mission cargo for different loadouts could be stored ashore.
    Possible deployment locations could be: Singapore, Bahrain, Egypt, Horn of Africa, South Africa, Norway, Columbia, Puerto Rico, or the Philippines. I would suggest the initial two ships be operated for at least one year before going to assigned ports.

    Lee Wahler
    LCDR-R and MTS retd.

    MCRP 3-31B describes the LKAs originally as follows:
    “The Charleston Class LKA provides considerable flexibility in cargo stowage methods. The cargo elevators servicing holds 1, 3, and 4 make all categories of supplies and all levels available simultaneously to either the main deck or the helicopter platform. Use of the ship’s forklifts and pallet transporters speed the maneuvering of cargo in the holds and enable delivery to various debarkation stations via the main deck passageways which run the length of the ship. The arrangement and quantity of booms and cargo elevators make it possible to simultaneously embark/debark vehicles and cargo. Vehicles in upper stowage spaces can be embarked/debarked through the hatches with cargo booms, while pallets are embarked/debarked in lower stowage spaces by elevators. The main deck hatch of hold 2 is unobstructed and can be opened for embarking/debarking of vehicles without the delay of unloading landing craft stowed on the hatch. Hold 4 is well suited for high priority cargo because of its direct access to the flight deck or main deck via elevator number 5.”

  • Byron

    Sounds good. What about electrical generation? Sounds like all of this will really increase the load.

  • leesea

    The Charleston class had moderate amount of power from SSTGs. It would be hard to find the space for larger gensets and costly. Of course a load analysis would have to be done because of all the modifications. But there is room in their holds for portable DG sets for use on shore.

  • Byron

    Is she a diesel or a steamer? Either way, all the additional personnel and on-board activies will require more generation.

    Electrical generation is the one thing a lot of amateurs forget when they talk about new ship design.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    I believe that arming hospital ships is a problem vis-a-vis international law.

    For new construction, diesel electric allows use of nominally main DG’s to be switched to the hotel bus in port for cargo gear or ship to shore power. The design considerations would be both load capacity and speed regulation for the broad range of load and variable speeds required by motors of many various cranes, elevators, conveyors, ramps, windlass, capstans, main (propulsion) motors; and the hotel/hospital load; and vessel and aircraft specialized equipment.

    Auxiliary boilers for heating, cooking, sterilizing and hotel hot water, and (possibly) evaps will be required.

    The Fulton class AS’s in service from 1939 through the turn of the century are an interesting example of similar needs with a D/E solution.

  • Chuck Hill

    Hospital modules for the LCS or JHSV, particularly if they could be subsequently moved ashore?

  • leesea

    Byron they have SSTGs and we were adding CG reqd DGsets but that as you correctly note may not be enough. So electrical mods would be in the TBD category.

    GrandpaB, you are right but this is not a hospital ship rather a ship that carries hospitals. I am familiar with Geneva Convention rules and they are quite restrictive. These ships should be gray hulls?

    For new construction, you are also right (I have been on a couple modern d/e ships and they work), but I wanted to start with two existing partially converted ships. I was also trying to sell the concept as it could be used to support more than soft power missions than just DR.

    Chuck there are indeed DEPMEDS modules based on containers. I would lift them on the T-MMS and they could be lifted on a JHSV but not LCS since LCS has NO cargo handling equipment suitable for discharge or use inland. Another reason for loading Seabee gear in the cargo holds.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Leesea:

    If I get you, you are looking for an existing hull which may be easily converted to have the ability to rapidly embark transport and offload a field hospital to a disaster site, with the option of remaining on scene as a utilities source for the hospital and any relief organizations which might piggyback. It would (optimally) carry and load/unload to a craneless pier or to organic and/or local lighters. (Relatively) small size and shallow draft for accessing small unimproved third world harbors are a goal. You want something on the cheap as proof of principle with an improvised prototype.

    Seems possible.

    Could I venture the opinion that if you want to do this, apply at the Department of State? They can cut a check to MSC, who will kludge up something for anybody in the USG with cash and a bright idea.

    At the moment the Navy is incapable of emitting a practical low cost coastal corvette in a timely manner, and will reliably provide a platinum priced 300 plus foot pinnance in twice the duration of WWII (for the British)in its place (snap on accessories not included yet, thank you for waiting).

    The diversion of priorities at a time when available effort is best expended in single minded focus on reinventing the ability to design and deliver its own capable, survivable, surface warships, on time and budget, is not appropriate, in my opinion.

    Continuing long term readiness for prompt sustained successful combat at sea is the core competancy which must be preserved and maintained by the Navy. Hospital ships have an essential role, treatment of those wounded in battle.

    Anything else is mere rubbish (apologies to Graf M. Von Richtofen).
    A charitable waste of time and money, at best.

    Just call me old fashioned.

  • leesea

    Gradpa you about got the gist of the concept. Conerning your reservations, I would say first of the DOS has NO desire to buy any ships though they DO charter alot. Secondly the USN was already looking to replace the TAH19 class with smaller ships. Thirdly the T-MMS could just as easily support a Marine landing since most of the cargo it carries is alreay buried in the Marine loads as NSE Naval Support Element cargo. FYI The two T-LKA conversions were started as part of the ALEP a plan originated by Adm Borda to support Marine sealift shortfalls.

    To be very parochicial, IF the Navy gave the funds to MSC for a naval auxiliary to meet the T-MMS concept, they could get it down cheaper and quicker IMHO and I have been there and done that! Who needs NAVSEA for non-warships?

    I think there is already enough money in the NDSF to fund two conversions.

    Of course I am one who holds to the conviction that the Navy needs more than warships to win.

    Does that get me any closer to convincing you? LOL

  • Byron

    Lee, ask your MMS buddies about the Cape Wrath/Washington jobs. Ask them about the criteria that we had to achieve. It was tighter than even the Navy!

  • eastriver

    Agreed that multimission is the way to go. I like your concept, leesea, and agree that something the length and beam of the T-LKA is necessary to get it all done.

    26-28 ft draft seems a bit on the high side to be sufficiently versatile. Don’t know the speed capability of these two, but 20-25 kt minimum speed is not a lot to ask for given HA-DR requirements, even with fwd deployment. But it’s a start.

    Medical staffing need not be permanent if HHS DMAT teams are used. They train together and are organized and ready to go on short notice from cities nationwide and self-sufficient as presently constituted for 72 hrs. (Some DMATs in Haiti did pediatric surgery on Sunday aboard the Vinson, guess there aren’t too many pediatric surgeons aboard there.)

    State should certainly kick in some of the cost from the public diplomacy budget. It’s apparently one of the best things we do worldwide, and this is money better spent than what one might call propaganda, pumped out by overpaid advertising consultants. If they fulfill naval missions as well, so much the better. Gray is good.

    And I hope we never, ever have to sail anything like this up the Potomac.

  • Byron

    20-25 knots minimum on a merchie? Kinda doubt that one.

  • eastriver

    My error, strike “25”. I am routinely passed out here by container ships at 26-27 kts.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Leesea:

    The Air Force has long term charters on heavily modified ships for odd jobs and various prepo. Some are civilian owned and some are heavily modified USNS, originally built for other work. Marad could buy it, or MSC could make it a special mission USNS on long term charter and lease for operation, manaagement and manning. Maersk Lines, Ltd (the US flag subsidiary)and Dyne Marine come to mind.

    An interisland liner, about 10-15 years old, built for containers with a small ro-ro deck and a modest passenger load might be good. Or go more vehicle decks and less containers, maybe a coastal/interisland ferry. The T-LKA sounds interesting if orphaned by budget cuts and in reserve (link to class description please).

    Point being this thing would be a Peace Corps disaster second responder asset, NOT a TPFDL loaded Oplan committed war reserve military hospital ship. As such it would suck bucks away from full up military combat casualty treatment, protected under law of war, white ship with big red crosses construction and maintenence.

    No offense, BUT not part of the Navy’s job(s). Always happy to help if possible. The Navy is for war. The extension of diplomacy by military action as a measure of last resort (see Clauswitz).

    Your bright idea is for diplomatic assistance in peacetime. Let State do international relations work, so the Navy can be ready to win wars, a.k.a. State’s failures and problems not amenable to diplomatic methods.

    In this case their job is to fund it. The Navy’s job is not to.

    Like I said, I’m old fashioned.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Eastriver:

    Agree. Not any waterway inside the inland waters COLREGs demarcation lines, ever.

    That contingency might be your best justification for the budget wars, though. Maybe Homeland Security might fund it.

  • leesea

    The USAF does NOT charter sealift ships its all done by Military Sealift Command for the other services. MARAD has ships RRF ships which are candidates but does NOT buy any ships. Navy does the sealift ship buying.
    I see the T-MMS as either a naval auxiliary or a specialized sealift ship type. All MSC and MARAD ships are in the TPPFDs.

    I was not thinking of DOS or Peace Corps when I developed the concept. I was thinking a better way of doing HA/DR (after talking it over with old colleage master of USNS Mercy). Unless you change some senior officers’ minds, the USN is fully committed to supporting HA/DR for the forseeable future/

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Leesea:

    Stand corrected to the extent that MSC as a subordinate of TransCom
    and therefore charters commercial vessels (black hulls)as directed for the AF, which then has the ability to direct voyages from the prepo site to the contingency via Transcom and down the chain.

    The distinction is correct but, I submit, not a real difference. At some level, horses are traded, cash is passed and viola!, the AF gets what it wants/needs and the Navy gets what it needs to provide it.

    TANSTAAFL (There ain’t not such thing as a free lunch. H/T Ltjg R. A. Heinlein USN Ret.)

    Of course MSC and Marad ships are in the TPPFD’s, that’s not my point. Every time phased plan for force deployment is an integral part of a contingency operations plan. All the contingencies are tied to a threat and the US’s alliances’ requirements to oppose the threats. Basic logistic doctrine, right? The TPPFD specifies the units who go when the bell rings, it requires a TPPFDL (the L is for List) which specifies what equipment is to be loaded and transported by what mode and aircraft/vessel to the theater of operations to be mustered present, accounted for, and ready at D-Day, H- Hour. TPPFDL’s must be resourced, else no Humvee or unconsecrated host wafers and wine get transported for the Catholic Chaplin(and whatever analogously for the Protestant and Jewish Chaplins.)…or anybody else.

    “Resourced” means bought, assigned, earmarked, inventoried and maintained; as well as deconflicted from what other Opplan’s requirements require which may occur simultaneously.

    Now comes the fun of rotating perishables to maintain freshness. Stuff like blood, antibiotics, sterile packaged dressings and on and on and on.

    The gigabucks flow like water.

    One leetle problem with “let’s have the “right” ships ready for the next third world earthquake, tsunami or volcano.”

    They are not military threats. If you optimize the load out for them, battlefield wounded are handled suboptimally when the ship goes to war.

    Also…WHO IS GOING TO BUDGET THIS? And…at what cost to the military mission?

    Sure, the Navy will help out as much as it can, where and when it can, and go to Congress to get money to replace assets expended. All well and good. Always have, pray God always will.

    I just don’t see skewing the design of combat service support platforms (hospital ships, here) to optimize them for foreign aid and natural disaster relief. BECAUSE IF YOU DO, WOUNDED TROOPS WILL DIE NEEDLESSLY. In my book they get pri 01 999 expedite. ALWAYS.

    I’m not here to change senior officer’s minds. They are limited life components anyway. I would hope my grumpy bullheaded opinions might review the fundamentals from time to time so when the jo’s are senior officers, they have what they need and know what orders to give all our grandkids.

    Over to you.

  • eastriver

    Grandpa, you’re on to something. DHS’s ship division, the CG, might be a good fit. It plays well in the sandbox with Navy, State, other agencies and foreign gov’ts.

    I was reminded of the Oct ’08 issue of Proceedings, discussing the CG’s deployment of DALLAS to West and Central Africa in support of AFRICOM. Some of their deployment was under Navy control, and some under CG. DALLAS also delivered an aid cargo to Georgia when the Russians invaded… probably not really designed to carry 34 tons of cargo, but they managed.

    So take Leesea’s concept of a “handy-size” multimission-capable ship, run it out of the CG, use joint CG-Navy-civilian crews (the word “joint” seems to attract funding nowadays). Easily switched to Navy control when the bell rings.

    Design? Would need some kind of all-powerful being to limit the inevitable piling on of requirements, but HA-DR and mission support reqs should be made primary.

    This does smack of T.P.M. Barnett’s “Department of Everything Else”, but as Leesea pointed out, USN is committed to this kind of support. Why not add a tool to the box that can support other USN requirements at the same time?

  • leeses

    GrandpaB a few corrections to your above.
    MSC is dual hatted and only some of its ship contracting is tasked by TRANSCOM. MPS ships are “service unique” assets which the Navy funds, they are told where to go by FltComs NOT TRANSCOM. All other prepo ships are paid for by individual service Army, AF and DLA. Their movement is under COCOM direction not TRANSCOM. TRANSCOM only directs MSC strategic sealift program PM-5, the other three programs are NOT under TRANSCOM but CNO.

    Hospital ships of TAH19 class were built specifically to support wartime missions. They sat in ROS most of time up until a few years ago when “someone” decided that medical diplomacy was a good idea. (Before they went to FOS only once every other year, for several years now that was kicked up to annually activations and assignment to HA missions like Comfort in CP-09).

    Your concerns about having naval ships “skewed” is far above my pay grade. There are lots of folks with stars who don’t see a problem assigning naval warships, auxiliaries and sealift ships to HA/DRD missions. I am inclined to go with that flow. I really do not seek how a follow-on class meant to support amphib and soft power missions are compromised. The functions and support are the same. At least that is my thinking behind the T-MMS concept.

    Eastriver, I have kicked around the idea of hospital ships under USCG control with Jim Dublow. I just really don’t see DHS/DOS as having the necessary personnel to crew hospital ships AND provide medical personnel for the MTF staffs. Did you notice how many military medical folks flowed in upfront for Comfort around 1000? NGOs are helping out on a TAD basis. I wonder if DHS and/or DOS could pull off a hospital program?? Lots of people, products and bucks involved year on year??

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Leesea:

    Para the first above: Thanks for the fine grain detail. As you see, the bucks have to come from somewhere before Buck Rogers and the rest of the crew can show up. Which is the point.

    Para the second: An annual activation is useful for a lot of good training and material evaluation reasons for an in reserve hospital ship. The change is a good thing from a shipkeeping and crew management point of view, and the humanitarian and medical aid delivery is worthwhile. Sometimes the medical supplies used are near end of shelf life and would soon be surveyed and discarded if they couldn’t promptly be put to use in a government medical facility, might as well use them up as throw them out. As far as the rest of the costs, you are getting charitable work done by performing military tasks which need to be done for their own sake, mostly.

    I don’t think anybody much has problems assigning any asset that can help to medical diplomacy or diaster relief duties when the opportunity presents its self. Often the experience provided to medical personnel is highly valuable. Less tangible is the morale lift for those involved in life saving and life improving medical care,but the benefit to the folks doing the work and to the Navy at large is real.

    There is a very considerable difference between assigning and designing military equipment and organizations for disaster relief and medical aid.

    The principle is NTIB with the primary mission. Tied up in that is non diversion of funds for “maintaining a Navy.” Somewhere, somebody is getting paid and money is being made, which is fine if the Navy is getting essential military capability provided or improved thereby.

    So while it’s been fun stirring the pot, the key question isn’t addressed, “under what Department of the Executive Branch is this the budget line for international disaster relief and medical foreign aid going to go, and what programs and capabilities are going to get the ax to provide the treasure to fund the budget line?”.

    You see, there is no more money. Congress has spent all there is and borrowed all that can be paid back in a hundred years, and spent that. It’s a nice idea, but the game is now truly zero sum.
    Shrinking sum, really.

    In my opinion, the Navy can’t afford what you propose on the scale you would like to see.

    Combat readiness must come first.

  • Barry

    Grandpa Bluewater Says:
    “I believe that arming hospital ships is a problem vis-a-vis international law.”

    Set up some drop-in sockets for something modular, such as a Phalanx, or other automatic gun turrent. In most cases, the ship would be unarmed, but could be armed during preparation for leaving port, if the area was pirate-infested. 3-4 automatic cannon would stop pirates; any real naval threat would either be provided by the fleet, or the ship would be out of luck any way.

    Grandpa Bluewater:

    “You see, there is no more money. Congress has spent all there is and borrowed all that can be paid back in a hundred years, and spent that. It’s a nice idea, but the game is now truly zero sum.
    Shrinking sum, really.”

    Check the rates on treasuries.

  • leesea

    I am talking $50 to 85 mil for two ship conversions. That is change order money on ANY NAVSEA project. OR far less than all the earmarks that our wonderful congressional types have plugged into the DOD budget for their own pet projects.
    And like I said, the concept is NOT just for a hospital ship replacement. The medical facilities and Seabee gear are already part of the MPF loadout.

  • eastriver

    Leesea — was thinking more of CG managing the ships as opposed to running them completely. Civilian mariners if possible, otherwise reserve. Could be manned according to requirements, e.g. CG, HHS, DOD, USAID personnel for HA-DR, USN for naval support deployment, mix of Navy and CG for foreign training and flag-showing, etc. Multi-mission vessel with multi-staffing options, mix and match according to need.

    An advantage for HA-DR is that reps from most of the USG pointy-end players would be together, might facilitate coordination. As for financing, it is chump change. Most of the staffing exists already within USG. We do most of these things already. This is just a platform to do it from.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Eastriver:

    Chump change?

    Good luck on passing the tin cup among the budget holders. Blood they’ll donate. Budget funding? ‘Taint likely.

  • leesea

    eastriver, As much as I respect the USCG, they simply do NOT have the personnel assets, medical staff NOR budget to take over the T-AH missions. I think hospital ships are funded around $37 mil in FY11. With the CG cutting MSSTs do you realy think they can afford the manpower and money to operate hospital ships?

    BTW CIVMAR crews need some special training to run the T-AH and the medical staffs get lifeboat training as well. There is a whole ‘nother suppor network in the active duty and reserve community of Naval Reserve which is called into play when a hospital ship activates, not to mentions SeaBees and aviation ops. Most of that is NOT in the USCG force structure. Its all in the numbers man!

  • eastriver

    Leesea, you make much sense given current force configurations.

    That said, I think that sometime in the future we’re going to see some sort of interdepartmental construct that will facilitate USG efforts across agencies to reach out for various nonkinetic functions, such as HA or DR. Me, I would hate to see yet another department created for such purposes; hence my looking at CG as the agency most accustomed to crossdecking with other agencies. No, they don’t have the budget and are constantly shortchanged on the budget they have (avg. age of high-endurance cutters 41 yrs?) But they, or someone else, could be given the budget.

    So maybe start small with a couple of your T-MMS and see where it leads?

    Curious as to what special training a CIVMAR would need to run a T-AH.

  • leesea

    T-AH have old steam plants which in today’s maritime world are specialized and there are numerous ship systems unique to the ship type. The number of lifeboat onboard and the mariners used to launch and crew them is unigue, and the mariners drive utility boats which they don’t normally.

  • Wayne Gluf

    Though fast would certainly be a nice asset for a hospital ship, small size would likely be a liability. Please see the article in Feb 2008 USNI Proceedings on converting current LHA/LHD to the next generation hospital ship (more appropriately called humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) ships). The present hull (converted oil tankers) has several inherent limitations, most notably the ability to embark/debark patients in an expedient and safe manner. A LCS or similar sized ship would be similarly limited and could not carry sufficient medical assets, have enough ICU/ward beds, be too small to have enough operating rooms, cannot make enough water/electricity or store enough fuel to be a disaster relief platform. The LHA/LHD with their massive flight decks (10 helo spots), capacious well deck with LCAC and LCU capability, ability to have equivalent ICU/ward/and OR’s to current hospital ships, make significant fresh water and electricity, is the ideal platform for the new HA/DR ship. A small, fast ship could arrive quickly and provide very limited assets early on in a disaster; but the ultimate capabilities pale in comparison to a big deck ship like the LHA/LHD.

  • Al

    Merchant Marine Engineering Officer here; spent a year on _Comfort_.

    the T-AH’s ==look== stupendously large when you visit/tour them whilst in ROS; in the real world of a full-on deployment, departments are fighting over every square inch of storage space.

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