Surface Forces: February 4, 2004


The U.S. Navy has been successful in implementing its "Sea Swap" program and now gets about ten percent more use from its warships. Sea Swap changes crews, instead of bringing ships home. After a crew has been deployed in a distant area for about six months, instead of bringing it back to its home port in the United States, a replacement crew is flown out so that the original crew can be flown back. For warships in the Western Pacific or Persian Gulf, it takes about 45 days for a ship to steam back to the United States. While the crews have to be brought back every six months (except in wartime), the ships can stay out there for at least a year, and sometimes two years. Ships only have to come back for major maintenance that requires special facilities and technical staff. The Sea Swap program currently involves seven destroyers (with crews of about 350 sailors each) and some coastal patrol boats in the Persian Gulf (with 30 sailors each.) The crews literally swap ships, with the crew flying back to the United States taking over the ship of the same class they just handed over to the new crew overseas. With Sea Swap, the navy can keep the same number of ships "on station" (patrolling an overseas area), but with fewer ships overall since ships will spend much less time traveling back and forth to the United States. 


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