Norfolk, Virginia - When the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore Aug. 21, 2017, among critical decisions Navy leadership faced was determining the extent of the damage and what it would take to complete repairs to get her back into service.
As the ship moored at Singapore's Changi Naval Base, it was determined the ship would be moved to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, for a complete assessment. In the weeks prior to departure from Singapore, crew members, technicians and divers prepared the ship for the trip by patching damaged sections of the hull and placing key systems in layup maintenance.
In late September 2017, a marine transport company began preparing to move the damaged John S. McCain from Singapore to Japan where an in-depth damage assessment will be completed. Repairs are expected to take up to a year and could cost more than $200 million.
As the magnitude of the damages were realized, one issue stood out-it would take nearly 400,000 pounds of steel plates, among other supplies, to make repairs to the McCain. But even more perplexing was how to get that steel half way around to world to ensure the repairs where kept on schedule to get it back to U.S. 7th Fleet. That's when NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) Transportation and Distribution stepped into the breach.
NAVSUP WSS Transportation and Distribution located in Norfolk, Virginia, was instrumental in transporting the critical supplies from the United States to Ship Repair Facility (SRF), Japan Regional Maintenance Center (JRMC) in Yokosuka. NAVSUP WSS T&D provides transportation and related financial management for the efficient, safe and most cost-effective movement of passengers, mail and cargo, while maintaining expertise regarding transportation and distribution analysis, forward positioning recommendations and strategic mobility support.
"Multiple sections under the NAVSUP WSS T&D Team contributed to the effort of getting the urgently needed parts and supplies to the McCain," said Pam Young, operations director, NAVSUP WSS T&D Transportation Operations. Young worked with U.S. Navy Supervisor Ship Building of Bath, Maine, to verify the overall requirement for the material that had to be moved to Japan to meet McCain's repair schedule. Once requirements were determined and trucks were loaded with large steel plates, they hit the road heading for Air Mobility Command, Travis Air Force Base, California. In the meantime, the NAVSUP WSS T&D, U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) Liaison, Vaughn Stocker, located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, was coordinating with the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC) as well as commercial venders and U.S. Navy Supervisor Ship Building, to ensure all of the transportation requirements were met.
One of the significant hurdles he faced planning the move was that it had to be done during a period of limited aircraft availability. Stocker was able to successfully arrange additional C-17 and C-5 aircraft to move the precious cargo on time. The C-17 has a maximum payload of 170,900 pounds, and a range of approximately 6500 miles. The C-5 has a maximum payload 285,000 pounds, and a range of approximately 5500 miles. Both aircraft are among the Air Force's workhorses.
The final pieces of the puzzle fell into place under the watchful eye of Toby Au, NAVSUP WSS T&D Detachment lead at Travis Air Force Base who, much like a conductor pieces together instrumental music to create a symphony, brought it all together to get the much needed steel and hardware to McCain.
Au worked to get parts air clearance authority cleared, aircraft booked and identified as high priority requirements for McCain totaling 410,441 pounds of steel plates and hardware. Au worked closely with SUPSHIP to coordinate inbound shipments to Travis Air Force Base from various vendors and Air Force load planners to get the oversized and heavy cargo onto the airlift. According to Au, a considerable amount of lift capability was sacrificed in order to expedite the material and meet schedules. "To paint a mental picture, it's basically the footprint of three C5's or nine C17s in an aerial delivery system configuration," said Au.
When it was all said and done, by realigning and utilizing channel lift, NAVSUP WSS T&D saved the Navy nearly $2 million and got the supplies where they needed to be, when they needed to be there once again demonstrating NAVSUP WSS is the critical link connecting the supply chain to the warfighter.