I am often asked what the significance of a submarine tender is to the U.S. Navy. In the simplest terms, they are a supply and intermediate level repair vessel assisting submarines in upholding mission readiness and national security.
USS Frank Cable (AS 40) is one of two remaining Emory S. Land-class submarine tenders in the Navy. Its purpose is to, “make warships ready to carry out the missions vital to national security.”
This ship is unique from other ships due to a hybrid crew composed of personnel from both the U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command (MSC). Frank Cable achieves its mission through expeditionary repair and resupply of submarines throughout the 3rd Fleet, 5th Fleet and 7th Fleet.
Frank Cable’s Supply Department is composed of Sales, Disbursing, Stock Control, Quality Assurance, Hazardous Material, and Postal Divisions, as well as two unique divisions, Submarine Supply Assistance Team (SUBSAT) and Repair of Other Vessels Ships Service (ROVSS).
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USS Frank Cable (AS 40) tends units in her homeport of Apra Harbor, Guam.
These divisions play an instrumental role in coordinating the receipt, shipment and distribution of parts required to perform material repairs to vessels, as well as resupplying tended submarine stock. SUBSAT is dedicated to the timely research and expeditious shipment of requisitions for submarines across the fleet, performing routine stock checks to fill stores replenishment, or boat drops, for tended units. ROVSS authorizes the purchase of materials necessary to the ship’s mission of vital assignments required to maintain submarine readiness and national security. MSC Supply is responsible for food service, hotel services and supplements Navy Supply with storeroom manpower.
Guam hosts three homeported Los Angeles-class submarines, and many deploying submarines who often stop in Guam and moor alongside the Frank Cable to receive support and resupply. Frank Cable assists in a deployed submarine’s Voyage Repair (VR) availability to return units to sea quickly. Homeported submarines will conduct short, unscheduled VR availabilities and will undergo scheduled Continuous Maintenance Availabilities (CMAV) three times a year, with numerous jobs that have accumulated will require the unit to remain under the assistance of Frank Cable for a 30 to 40-day period.
At regular intervals, a SSGN will visit Guam to conduct a 21-day VR availability period with assistance from Frank Cable Repair and Supply Departments while the SSGN switches their crew.
Regardless of where Frank Cable is in the world, supporting submarines is the primary mission. When submarines need support in foreign ports, Frank Cable is there to assist. Such was the case in September 2012 when USS Hawaii (SSN 776) met Frank Cable in the Philippines. While they were there, Hawaii received parts required for jobs, assistance from repair technicians and mail services, as well as provisions required to complete their mission. In addition, in January 2013, USS La Jolla (SSN 701) met Frank Cable in Saipan to receive repairs, parts and assistance.
While the ship is underway, submarines continue to visit Guam, and often have a repair agenda in hand. The Emergent Repair Facility was constructed to support the needs of visiting submarines while Frank Cable is out to sea, and it hosts a crew that supports visiting submarines. The ERF provides a full range of capabilities to aid and repair submarines, and the Supply Department sustains it through two nearby Transient Sheds (T-Sheds). The T-Sheds offer direct turnover support, depot level repairable issues, turn ins, as well as vehicle, and crane support. T-Shed personnel also coordinate the disposal of hazardous material and waste, and store supplies within assigned unit cages for tended submarines.
Frank Cable Sailors also assists in the repair efforts performed by USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), also a submarine tender. Frank Cable provides about 70 Sailors on temporary duty to augment the work force for four months aboard Emory S. Land through expeditionary manning to conduct repairs and resupply efforts required by submarines within the 5th Fleet and 7th Fleet Indian Ocean areas of operation.
Regardless of the location or scope of work, Frank Cable consists of a crew that works tirelessly to ensure the mission readiness of the Navy’s submarine fleet. The Supply Department sits center stage in supporting all efforts and coordinating logistics to maintain fleet effectiveness worldwide.
By Lt. j.g. Heather Hutchison; Customer Service Officer, USS Frank Cable (AS 40)