In the age of sail, only the quantity of water and food would restrict the range of a warship. Since wind provided the motive power for the sails, only a moderate amount of hemp for replacement of rigging was needed and the ship’s carpenter could work wood obtained from a local source for replacement of worn or damaged parts. Of course with the coming of steam power the equation changed. Initially ships still maintained a full sailing rig, as the new steam technology was not entirely trusted and sails still gave the ship extended range. It took decades but eventually sails disappeared as the last vestige of naval combat for almost two millennia. However, with the disappearance of sail a new problem required a solution. Steam powered warships were powered by coal, which any large warship consumed in prodigious quantities. The British empire developed a series of coaling stations throughout their trade routed, which spanned the world. Ships could steam from one coaling station to the next, almost wherever they went. The French could almost do the same but their set of colonies and possessions was not quite as great as those of Great Britain. For all other naval powers without the system of coaling stations, the replacement of coal for warships came in the form of the earliest steam powered combat support ship, the collier, whose mission was simply to transport huge quantities of coal for the fleet. When the Royal Navy introduced fuel-oil fired propulsion on the Queen Elizabeth class battleships, the oiler would come to replace the collier in the same capacity.
That was fine when it came to fuel for the boilers but other support systems needed replenishment. Whether it is an aircraft carrier, a submarine or a surface ship, all warships have the primary purpose of the destruction of enemy shipping. Since the disappearance of the ram this has been accomplished through some form of ordnance. In combat vast quantities of munitions can be expended very quickly. A case study can be seen in the voyage of Admiral von Spee’s East Asiatic Squadron in 1914. First and foremost, once cut off from their home port of Tsing-Tao coal for the cruisers was the first priority. This was a major consideration for his appearance off Port Stanley and the Falkland Islands, which had a major coaling station being used at the time of von Spee’s squadron by HMS ships Invincible and Inflexible. There was another consideration that affected von Spee’s tactics, his ammunition status. When the German squadron met and crushed a British cruiser squadron under Admiral Christopher Cradock, the German cruisers used up more than half of their ammunition. Unlike coal, which could be obtained from numerous sources, ammunition could only be replaced in Germany. Von Spee was not expecting to encounter a fight when he arrived at the Falklands. At first he turned away simply because he thought it was another cruiser squadron of similar speed and he had limited ammunition, so he tried to avoid a fight. It was only during the chase that he realized the British force was centered on two battle cruisers, which could bring him to action. To provide that ammunition to the fleet, instead of having ships return to home port for replenishment, the solution called for another type of combat support ship, the ammunition ship.
In US Navy tradition ammunition replenishment ships have been given the AE designation and most appropriately named after volcanoes. Even in the nuclear powered age when carriers can go years without replenishment of fuel rods, they still need ordnance for their aircraft. For rapid underway replacement of missiles and other munitions, the USN developed the Kilauea class ammunition ships. Designed to transfer munitions over the side from a number of fixed points or through the use of a helicopter, replenishment could be accomplished in almost any sea condition, outside of a typhoon. The Kilauea class was one of the last ammunition replenishment designs designed specifically for the USN. The replacement design will still carry the AE designation but will be typed Auxiliary Dry Cargo Carrier and will be operated by the Military Sealift Command Navy Fleet Auxiliary Force.
The Kilauea class was a product of the 1960s. Eight ships were ordered: Kilauea T-AE 25; Butte T-AE 27; Santa Barbara T-AE 28; Mount Hood T-AE 29; Flint T-AE 32; Shasta T-AE 33; Mount Baker T-AE 34 and Kiska T-AE 35. Kilauea and Butte were built by General Dynamics of Quincy, Massachusetts and the others by Ingalls, Pascagoula, Mississippi. The building program lasted for five years from March 10, 1966 when Kilauea was laid down to December 16, 1972 when Kiska entered service. Kilauea was the heaviest of the class, displacing 11,915-tons light, 20,169-tons full load. The others were over 1,000-tons lighter, ranging from 10,073 to 10,524-tons light, 18,444 to 20,068-tons full load. In part this greater weight for Kilauea is for increased ammunition storage, as well as the increase in the size of her superstructure. The superstructure of Kilauea was much larger from that of the rest of the class after a refit. To increase crew accommodation, the entire superstructure was filled in to present a single block, flush with the hull sides. As built, the class was armed with Butte having two twin 3-inch; Santa Barbara & Mount Hood with four twin 3-inch guns; and the others with two 20mm Phalanx CIWS. The electronics fit was one Mk 36 SRBOC chaff launcher, SPS-10 surface search radar, a SLQ-32(V)1 ESM suite and a SATCOM system.
The overall length of the ships was 564-feet (171.9m), beam of 81-feet (24.7m), and draught of 28-feet (8.5m). The ships had seven replenishment rigs with four to port and three to starboard. The aft superstructure was fitted with a hangar 50-feet long by 17 feet wide and could store and operate two helicopters for vertical replenishment. VERTREP. Two H-46D Sea Knight helicopters were carried. Each of these platforms can carry 3,000 pounds of cargo internally of 10,000 pounds slung externally underneath. Munitions capacity was 6,500 tons, plus an additional 2,500 tons of fuel cargo. Until the early 1990s the ships were equipped with special handling rooms for nuclear ordnance, missile and bombs. A conventional steam plant propelled the ships. Three Foster-Wheeler boilers generated steam for the three sets of General Electric geared steam turbines. These produced a maximum of 36,661shp to turn a single shaft. Maximum speed was 21-knots. As commissioned into the USN they carried a crew of 347 to 352 men but this would change.
Starting in 1980 with the Kilauea, the ships were transferred to the civilian run Military Sealift Command. Since they were no longer manned by the military, the armament was removed, except for Kilauea. She was the only member of the class that was kept armed. The armament is rather small with four .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine guns but this was added as a defense against pirates operating along the horn of Africa. With a civilian crew and removal of armament, crew needs were substantially reduced. With the Military Sealift Command (MSC) the ships carried 125 MSC civilian sailors and 24 navy personnel. The USN personnel have the duties of ordnance handling and operations, communications and flight operations. All other traditional ship-handling duties are the province of the civilian crew. Kilauea was first to be transferred and then there was a long gap until the balance of the class were transferred to civilian control, starting in 1995 and went into reserve. Originally, they were to be overhauls to extend their operational lives but as a budget saving measure, these plans were cancelled and the class was scheduled to be replaced by the T-ADC 1 class of the Auxiliary Dry Cargo Carrier Program, the first of which was laid down in 2002. Mount Hood T-AE 29 was transferred to the MSC on August 3, 1998 but unlike the others was selected for disposal. She was decommissioned and stricken August 13, 1999 and sold for scrapping. (History from Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001, compiled by noted naval mage and illuminati, A. D. Baker III, who is said to have stated that the Kilauea class ship, Mount Baker was named after him, but this may have been apocryphal or fabricated out of whole cloth by the reviewer)
The Ships & Company Kilauea
The short forecastle is completely enclosed with a solid bulkhead. The casting of the bulkhead was very thin and there were a couple of very small voids on the upper starboard edge. The inboard face has widely spaced support gussets. The highlight of forecastle detail is the anchor windlass with the cast on anchor chain. The chain only has a short run before disappearing into the deck hawse. There are a lot of twin bollard fittings with five fittings running along both starboard and port deck edge. Additionally there are another five fittings scattered on the forecastle in an asymmetrical pattern. However, one of these is a locator post for a separate deckhouse mounted on the forecastle. The forecastle ends with a curved tall bulkhead, which is the start of the shelter deck.
The shelter deck runs most of the length of the ship. The forward half of this deck has solid deck edge bulkheads with a couple of shorter runs further aft. A wing of bulkhead comes inboard near the start of the shelter deck, almost enclosing the forward portion of the deck within solid bulkheads. The bulkheads and deck fittings are asymmetrical in layout. Support gussets are only found on the port side bulkhead. There is a small deckhouse on the starboard deck edge. Pairs of winches or specialized cable reels for boat launching and retrieval are found on each edge where no deck edge splinter shield is located and these are where ship’s boats are located. The shelter deck is slightly convex with a noticeable crown. Additionally various other deck fittings are scattered along the deck. The quarterdeck has another steep drop-off from the shelter deck. Ships & Co. has the side bulkhead continue so you will have an open hangar for the two included helicopters. Since the quarterdeck is the flight deck, it is mostly free of deck fittings, although a couple of winches are found near the entrance of the hangar.
There are three large, separately cast larger parts for the biggest items of the superstructure. The superstructure parts have a concave underside to mate with the convex deck. Locator holes on the underside fit over the locator posts cast on the deck. The large superstructure block has three levels of portholes on the front face and two levels on the sides. The lowest level is indented providing walkways leading to the cargo deck. The top has solid splinter shielding on every side except to the rear. To the rear of this block is the next major superstructure piece, which provides the base for the stack. This part has considerable detail on the sides with vertical ladder, cable reels and fittings on the side. The third major piece fits aft of this and forms the end of the shelter deck and start of the quarterdeck. It almost resembles of medieval castle in its multi-storied appearance. When looked upon in plan view, the three superstructure parts form an "I".
A resin runner provides five smaller pieces of superstructure. One is the navigation bridge widow frames, solid bulkheads on the front of the navigation deck and a small centerline deckhouse. The other four items are deckhouses for the cargo/shelter deck. All four are different and are characterized by cargo winches on their tops. These large winches are very nicely done. Other fittings include small cable reels, doors and other fittings. The next largest run of resin parts includes the hangar roller doors with two separate bays. If you wish to have either or both doors open, you’ll have to remove the roller panels. The conical stack is also found here with ventilator cooling louvers on the sides and small circular exhaust vents at the top. Other parts include a small deckhouse for the forecastle with a locator hole on the bottom, two small deckhouses and a king post. Two more resin runners have the king posts for cargo operations. They are of various shapes with vertical ladders going up their heights.
Other resin runners have fittings and equipment. One includes the ship’s boats, davits and two excellent helicopters. Another has the armament with two twin three-inch mounts and two Phalanx CIWS. Other parts on this runner include anchors, life raft canisters, and other smaller fittings. Another runner has various yards and side bulkheads with oval openings for the walkways at the bottom of the superstructure block. There is another runner of small wedge-like parts but I am unable to ascertain their attachment location because of the weakness of the instructions.
Four stainless steel photo-etch frets are included. These are not designed specifically for this kit but provide detail for four types of parts that would be found in more than one type of ship. One fret has various modern radars with each type of radar designated by a R number. Unfortunately, the instruction don’t show any photo-etch so you’ll have to do extra research to find the right type but fortunately the mounting location will be on the sole mast atop the superstructure. The second fret has helicopter rotors in three patterns. At least here, you’ll known to use the three-bladed twin rotors for the included Sea Knight helicopters. One helicopter will have blades extended and the other blades folded in the stowed position. Other rotors, not used with this kit, include a five bladed design and three bladed design both of which have tail rotors. The third fret has safety netting for the flight deck and the fourth fret has two runs of three-bar railing. Additional photo-etch detail, such as found in the Gold Medal Models generic fret for cargo ships could be very beneficial in further detailing this model.
A very complete and beautiful decal sheet is included. This same sheet is provided in the other modern USN kits released by Ships & Company. There is no indicator in the instructions as to which decals are used for the Kilauea, so further photograph research would be needed. However, the sheet does provide a wide selection of optional markings from different flight deck patterns, to different UNREP numbering, to even different E for Excellence hash marks. Numbers are provided in white, black and shaded white in a number of sizes. There are also standard bridge "fruit salad", an ensign and jack. What may really illuminate on this sheet is the name decals for the stern. Sure all of the Terrier/Talos Cleveland class CL missile conversion names are there, as that was the first Ships & Co. release. Sure the sheet has all eight Kilauea class names, including the infamous Mount Baker. Sure the sheet has the Shughart. However, the sheet also contains names of ships not released, or maybe better stated, not yet released. One is the names for Mars class replenishment ships or how about the biggie "USS Midway". Hmmmm……why would Ships & Co. put a USS Midway name decal on this sheet…. I wonder? And what is the deal that about a third of this large decal sheet seems composed of carrier deck lines? Why would a decal sheet designed exclusively for ships that carry at most helicopters, include air intake markings for jet attack aircraft or jet tail markings? How peculiar!
As with the Ships & Co. Shughart kit (click for review of S&C Shughart), instructions are the weak point of this kit. Ships & Company is a new company and the Kilauea was their second kit. So far they have used the same format for the instructions of all three of their initial releases. Three sheets of instructions present the assembly of the kit in nine steps. At each step white arrows are used to show where new parts are attached but there is no indication as to what part is used. Some are obvious from the photograph, such as superstructure but it was impossible for me to ascertain where some of the smaller parts were used. Since there is also a photograph of the resin parts in the instructions, a simple solution to this problem would be to number each resin part in the parts lay-down and use that same number in the assembly module. Another possible solution would be to use close-in photographs rather than distance shots, so that the modeler can specifically see which parts are being attached.
Ships & Company presents another well done 1:700 scale modern USN ship in the form of the last of the purpose built ammunition ships, the Kilauea class AE. Now you can join Dave Baker in building the Mount Baker, or any of the other seven ships in the class in resin and photo-etch. However, the instructions need improvement.