This Relatively Young Military Sealift Command Ship Is Absolutely Caked In Rust

The Pentagon is pushing its naval fleet to the brink and this is manifesting itself in its vessels appearing run-down after sustained operations.

@Sandiegowebcam via @Warshipcam

The Lewis and Clark class dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) pulled into San Diego Bay on Friday, December 4th looking remarkably worse for wear with the length of its hull and superstructure streaked with dark rust stains. The poor appearance of the ship, which was put into service less than a decade ago, is more evidence of a troubling trend that has manifested across America's naval forces. Vessels marred with 'running rust,' especially after particularly long deployments or generally high operational tempos, have become a far more common sight in recent years.

We recently reported on the very rough outward appearance of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Stout after its record-setting deployment, but the USNS Washington Chambers looks markedly worse. You can read about the various factors that are contributing to the depleted condition of U.S. naval vessels, as well as the Stout's own ordeal, in this recent piece of ours. Suffice to say, the fleet is being pushed to its limits, with no real end in sight. This has major downstream effects, including longer and more expensive maintenance periods, decreased overall readiness, as well as the less easily quantifiable impacts on the crews that man the vessels themselves. 

It isn't clear exactly everywhere USNS Washington Chambers has been or how long it has been away from home and under what circumstances, but these Military Sealift Command vessels, which provide an absolutely essential lifeline to the combat ships they resupply, usually operate with much smaller crews compared to their mainline counterparts. This can make preventative maintenance all that much more challenging to accomplish. 

USN

USNS Washington Chambers completing sea trials in 2011. 

The Military Sealift Command's fleet remains a potential weak-spot in America's naval strategy if the country had to sustain a conflict with a peer state adversary. You can read more about this issue here, here, and here. Regardless, it is troubling to see such a young and essential ship looking so rough as it pulls into port.  

Author's note: Hat tip to @warshipcam for this catch.

Contact the author: tyler@thedrive.com