Naval Logistics in the 21st Century

The wide spectre of current naval operations around the globe rely upon effective afloat support. Never has efficient afloat support been more important and the trend is expected to grow.

Naval Logistics in the 21st Century
By Malcolm Warr
For DefenceIQ

It is said that effective afloat support is decisive in maintaining the wide spectre of current naval operations around the globe. From supporting troops engaged in expeditionary missions, the protection of crucial shipping lanes, to engaging in humanitarian missions, afloat support has never been more important and this trend will only continue to grow into the future.

In peace and war, the present mission of naval logistics for most Navies is to provide and sustain operational readiness by getting the right support to the right place at the right time. In peace, operational readiness stems from the ability of naval forces to accomplish a wide range of day to-day taskings. In war, operational readiness is the forerunner of war fighting effectiveness.

But is this enough in the war fighting age we now find ourselves in?

As I write, dawn is breaking over a tranquil Indian Ocean. A naval auxiliary from a Western Navy is on the horizon. But all is not as it might be. That vessel is carrying military stores. It does not hold goods that might provide aid to Somalia or Yemen. Its mission is entirely directed at support for military forces in the Gulf. Yet it cannot support smaller navies around the Gulf Region.

It’s a national asset, occasionally used to support other forces on an ad hoc basis. It carries no Command & Control capability to provide a platform for aid to civil power operations. It is expensive to build and is expensive to operate.

Naval afloat support is broadly speaking, 60 years old this year. The modern Fleet Train was born out of the need to provide support to US Forces operating across the Pacific, although small and successful attempts were also being made concurrently by the German submarine flotilla to resupply its submarines using Milch Cows – or ‘Milk Cows’ – in the furthest reaches of the Atlantic.

By the end of the Second World War, the US Navy had built specialised afloat support vessels. The Kreisgmarine relied on Type XIV U-boats which were amodification of the Type IXD, They had no torpedo tubes or deck guns, onlyanti-aircraft guns. Due to its large size, the Type XIV could resupply other boatswith 400 tons of fuel, four torpedoes, and fresh food that were preserved…………[access full article here]

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