Unusual Navy ship

This very large and unusual Navy ship has been in port for two weeks at Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. I had trouble tracking it down because the number 12 does not show up on typical lists of Navy vessels.

Unusual Navy shipRetired Capt. Mike Maddocks discovered that it’s USNS William McLean, a dry cargo and ammunition ship named for the physicist who developed the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile. It’s nearly 700 feet long and takes up an entire third of the formidably long NWS pier. The McLean can handle nearly 1.4 million cubic feet of cargo, which explains why it’s taken so long at Yorktown to load. The ship can also store two helicopters.

USNS means the ship is largely civilian, and indeed the specs call for 125 civilian crew and up to 49 Navy crew. Capt. Maddocks described it as “kind of an [ship] for logistics and supply, some ordnance perhaps. The bands on the stack indicate a Military Sealift Command ship. It’s used to forward deploy when the U.S. is going abroad for an expeditionary force.”

The McLean is so large as to require not one but two orange lifeboats port and starboard to handle the crew during an evacuation. Such lifeboats are not seen on the main Navy fleet, just civilian ships.

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