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RFA Stromness (A344)
RFA Stromness
RFA Stromness (A344)
Career (UK) RFA Ensign
Name: RFA Stromness
Ordered: 7 December 1964
Builder: Swan Hunter
Yard number: 2017
Laid down: 5 October 1965
Launched: 16 September 1966
Fate: Sold to USA
Career (USA)
Name: USNS Saturn
Acquired: 1 January 1983
In service: 1 January 1983
Out of service: 6 April 2009
Fate: Sunk October 27, 2010
General characteristics
Class & type: RFA: Ness-class fleet stores ship
USA: Sirius-class combat stores ship
Tonnage: 6475 deadweight tonnage
Displacement: 10,205 tons
Tons burthen: 16,680 tons
Length: 523 ft (159 m) o/a
Beam: 72 ft (22 m)
Draft: 26 ft (7.9 m) (max.)
Propulsion: 8-cylinder Sulzer RD 76 turbocharged diesel engine, 11,520 bhp (8,590 kW) at 118 RPM, single propeller
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h)
Complement: RFA: 110 RFA + 50 Stores Working Party
USA: 123 Civilian, 47 Navy
Armament: 6x pintle mounts for M240B 7.62mm machine guns or Browning M2 12.7mm machine guns in MSC service. Guns not normally fitted
Aircraft carried: 2 × UH-46 Sea Knight or MH-60S Seahawk helicopters
Aviation facilities: Fitted with a flight deck but no hangar facilities until purchased by U.S. Military Sealift Command, hangar for 2 CH-46, MH-60 or Super Puma post-refit

RFA Stromness (A344) was a fleet stores ship which served the Royal Fleet Auxiliary until sold to the United States Military Sealift Command in 1983.


Originally known as RFA Stromness (A344), the vessel was built at Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend as Yard Nr 2017, United Kingdom, for the Royal Navy. She was laid down on 5 October 1965 and launched on 16 September 1966.

RFA operational history

In 1973 she brought the expedition members of the Joint Services Egmont Islands Expedition (JSEI) from the Egmont Atoll back to Gan, Addu Atoll after their mission was over. Led by Sqn Leader “Dickie” Bird RAF, it was the first scuba diving expedition in the Chagos Archipelago.[1] Following its success, a second expedition was undertaken to Danger Island the following year.[2]

In 1982 "STROM" saw service during the Falklands War, where she carried over 400 troops of 45 Commando Royal Marines to the beach landing in San Carlos Water.

Sale to the U.S. Military Sealift Command

In 1983 Stromness was sold to the United States Military Sealift Command. She was renamed Saturn and placed into service.

USMSC mission

Saturn was one of five combat stores ships operated by Military Sealift Command. She provided fuel, food, ammunition and ocean towing services to U.S. Navy ships around the world. Saturn carried virtually every type of food and supply needed by Navy ships. Saturn carried spare and repair parts for other ships and aircraft and also had a limited capability to transfer fuel to other Navy ships at sea. Supplies and fuel are transferred to other ships using lines and hoses suspended above the water to another ship as the ships move forward at the same speed and sometimes less than 50 feet apart.

File:USNS Saturn T-AFS-10.jpg

USNS Saturn (T-AFS-10)

Saturn was capable of replenishing two ships at the same time, one on either side, using this side-by-side technique. Dry stores were also transferred by using helicopters to lift large cargo nets and pallets loaded with supplies and parts. Saturn had elevators and mobile equipment for handling stores internally on the ship. Helicopters were not assigned to Saturn on a full-time basis, but flew aboard for extended periods of time while the ship was at sea.

Civilian Mariners (CIVMARS) on board USNS Saturn were a vital part of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) Fleet. Their areas of expertise encompass a wide variety of occupations ranging primarily from the engineering, deck and supply departments. Final compliment was approximately 120 personnel. Tour lengths were 4 months in duration with an extension option available.

Enlisted ratings on board included Operations Specialists, Information Systems Technicians, Electronics Technicians, Personnelmen and Storekeepers. Final tour length for enlisted military members aboard Saturn was 12 months. Officers served up to a two-year tour.

Saturn operational history

The Saturn was deactivated on April 6, 2009 and sunk in a sinking exercise (SINKEX) by sea and air assets of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group off the coast of North Carolina on October 27, 2010.


There is no journal entry on Saturn (T-AFS-10) at DANFS.

Honors and awards

Qualified Saturn personnel are authorized the following medals:


  1. The History of Army Recreational Diving and the Army Sub-Aqua Diving Association (ASADA)
  2. Baldwin, EA (ed.), A report on the Joint Services Expedition to Danger Island in the central Indian Ocean, December 1974 to April 1975, Ministry of Defence Publication, London 1975

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