As the powerful super typhoon Mawar approached Guam, all the major ships in the island’s port evacuated to avoid the storm’s impact. However, one significant asset of the U.S. Marine Corps, the ageing yet highly valuable Aviation Logistics Support Ship called the SS Curtiss (T-AVB 4) managed by the U.S. Maritime Administration, remained stuck in port and couldn’t depart.
The SS Curtiss, a steam-powered ship serving as a Marine Corps aircraft repair depot, faced a potential danger due to an inoperable propulsion boiler. To avoid the approaching storm at sea, the ship was secured to a pier instead. Fortunately, the ship survived the storm with minimal damage, except for a broken wind gauge. After the storm passed, the embarked Marines aided in Guam’s recovery efforts, and once the boiler was fixed, the ship resumed its journey to the United States. This incident highlights concerns about the age and reliability of America’s Ready Reserve Force (RRF), a subset of vessels within the National Defense Reserve Fleet managed by the Maritime Administration.
Observers have long been concerned about the inability of America’s Ready Reserve Force (RRF) to meet emergency activation targets and effectively respond to crises. While there are plans to slowly modernize the RRF through the purchase and reflagging of economically unviable foreign-built cargo ships, the pace of this modernization is deemed inadequate. The SS Curtiss, as a Marine Corps asset, highlights the need for new-build replacements for the RRF’s most crucial assets, specifically the two ageing and highly sought-after Aviation Logistics Support Ships. The Maritime Administration has an opportunity to push for funding from the Pentagon and Congress to address this issue, considering the rapidly changing Marine Corps war-fighting strategy and potential changes in the amphibious fleet.
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