The ships of our Navy’s Combat Logistics Force (CLF) are the supply lines to U.S. Navy surface combatant ships at sea. They provide fuel, food, ordnance, spare parts, mail and other critical supplies enabling the fleet to remain at sea, on station and combat ready for extended periods of time.
CLF began in 1972 as the Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force after tests demonstrated that civil service crews could maximize effectiveness and cost efficiency in operating the Navy's fleet support ships. Fleet oiler USNS Taluga became the first ship to transfer to MSC, which now operates all Navy supply vessels.
Currently, all Navy CLF ships are government owned and crewed by civil service mariners, experienced maritime professionals sailing as Navy civilians under MSC. Until September 2013, certain ships also maintain a small contingent of uniformed Navy personnel aboard for operations support, supply coordination and helicopter operations.
Supplies are moved from CLF ships to combatant ships by several processes known collectively as underway replenishment (UNREP). One type of UNREP is the connected replenishment, during which dry cargo and fuel are transferred along wires or hoses that connect ships sailing side by side at the same speed. Another type of UNREP is the vertical replenishment, where cargo is attached to helicopters that ferry goods between ships.
Fleet replenishment oilers, the largest subset of CLF ships, provide fuel to deployed Navy combatant ships and their assigned aircraft via connected replenishment.
Since 2000, commercial helicopter detachments have supplemented Navy helicopters in providing logistics and vertical replenishment services from CLF ships. These detachments free up active duty Sailors and Navy aircraft to focus on warfighting missions.