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Surface Navy 2024: Navy secretary underscores need for rearming and refuelling surface fleet

The US Navy is buying more John Lewis-class oilers to meet deployment refuelling needs. (General Dynamics NASSCO)

As the US Navy (USN) continues to deploy its surface fleet to hot spots around the globe, the service must hone its ability to rearm and refuel those ships at sea, according to USN Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

“Every day, our ships respond to aggression and illegal activities with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, the Arabian Gulf, the Caribbean, and across Europe,” Del Toro said on 10 January during a keynote speech at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) National Symposium 2024.

Noting in particular recent missile-defence operations by USN surface ships in the Red Sea, Del Toro said, “To maintain a global, sustainable maritime posture, we must continue to innovate and invest in capabilities that keep our ships at sea, especially as their weapons magazines run low.”

He cited the development of the USN's Transportable Rearming Mechanism (TRAM) at Port Hueneme in California.

“In this critical decade, the near-term deterrent effect of fielding TRAM in the fleet cannot be overstated,” he said. “We remain on track for the all-important at-sea demonstration I've directed to take place no later than [the second quarter].”

He added, “Over the past year, I have sought and approved funding required by our NAVSEA [Naval Sea Systems Command] team in Port Hueneme to achieve our goal. The team is finalising preparations for the shore-based demonstration and scheduling ships for the at-sea test.”

TRAM is designed to enable rapid reload of Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells in up to sea state 5 using the fleet's existing underway replenishment (UNREP) interfaces, Del Toro explained.

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