Report to Congress on Light Replenishment Oiler

August 2, 2023 12:19 PM

The following is the Aug. 1, 2023, Congressional Research Service Navy Light Replenishment Oiler (TAOL) (Previously Next-Generation Logistics Ship [NGLS]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress


The Navy’s Light Replenishment Oiler (TAOL) program, previously called the Next-Generation Logistics Ship (NGLS) program, envisages procuring a new class of smaller at-sea resupply ships for the Navy. The Navy’s proposed FY2024 budget requests $8.8 million in research and development funding for the program. The Navy’s five-year (FY2024-FY2028) shipbuilding plan programs the procurement of the first TAOL in FY2026 at a cost of $150.0 million, the second in FY2027 at a cost of $156.0 million, and the third in FY2028 at a cost of $159.0 million.


The Navy’s Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ships, also called underway replenishment (UNREP) ships, are logistics ships that resupply the Navy’s combatant ships (e.g., aircraft carriers, surface combatants, and amphibious ships) at sea, so that the combatant ships can continue operating at sea without having to return to port.

The Navy’s current CLF ships include oilers (TAOs), dry cargo and ammunition ships (TAKEs), and fast combat support ships (TAOEs). In these designations, T means the ship is operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC) with a mostly civilian crew, A means auxiliary ship, O means oiler, K means cargo, and E means ammunition (i.e., explosives). (TAO, TAKE, etc. are also typed as T-AO, T-AKE, etc.) These CLF ships are large auxiliary ships. In the designation TAOL (also typed as T-AOL), the L means light, meaning a smaller version of such a ship. TAOL thus means an oiler that is smaller than a full-sized oiler.

New Fleet Architecture and Operational Concepts

To more effectively counter the improving A2/AD capabilities (i.e., capabilities that aim to create a defended area around a country that in time of conflict would be a “no-go zone” for opposing military forces) of China in particular, the Navy wants to begin shifting to a new, more distributed fleet architecture (i.e., mix of ships) that is intended to support a new Navy and Marine Corps operational concept (i.e., a general approach for using forces) called Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), and an associated new Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO).

DMO aims at avoiding a situation in which an adversary could defeat U.S. naval forces by concentrating its attacks on a relatively small number of large, high-value U.S. Navy ships. Under EABO, relatively small Marine Corps units armed with anti-ship cruise missiles and other weapons would hop on and off islands in the Western Pacific to conduct “shoot-and-scoot” operations against adversary ships. For more on DMO, EABO, and the Navy’s more distributed fleet architecture, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke, and CRS Report R46374, Navy Medium Landing Ship (LSM) (Previously Light Amphibious Warship [LAW]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.

Logistics Ships Currently Being Procured

The Navy is currently procuring new John Lewis (TAO- 205) class oilers, which are large CLF ships. TAO-205s have a currently estimated procurement cost of more than $800 million per ship. For more on the TAO-205 program, see CRS Report R43546, Navy John Lewis (TAO-205) Class Oiler Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.

TAOL Program

Basic Concept for Ship

The TAOL program (referred to in some documents as the NGLS program) was initiated in the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission. The program envisages building a new class of CLF ships (or a family of CLF ship designs) that would be smaller and individually less expensive to procure than the Navy’s current CLF ships.

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