What is an ARL?
Or perhaps more appropriately, what "was" an ARL, for there are currently no ARL's listed in the active roster of U.S. Navy ships. Apparently during WWII when the Navy was having landing craft built by the thousands, the need was recognized to repair and maintain them near the action. Even though the Navy had many regular repair ships, they were ill designed and equipped to be able to be at the site they were needed, or have the facilities to work on these small wooden landing craft. The LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel), for example, had become the mainstay of the Navy's small boat fleet, not just for landings, but were used for everything, everywhere. What was needed, was a ship that was not too large, had a shallow draft to get into small harbors, inlets or rivers, and be produced quickly. By mid WWII, the LST (Landing Ship Tank) was being produced by the hundreds. So, why not use that hull, with it's huge empty tank and main decks and fill it up with repair shops and machinery. Hence the ARL "Auxiliary Repair Light or Landing Craft". They were used in WWII, Korea and were particularly suitable for the rivers in Vietnam.
There were 37 LST's converted to ARL's from January 1943 to May 1945. The Askari was one of the later ones. The first one, the Achelous (ARL1), was built in January, 1943 and all the rest were essentially the same. All are now either scrapped or were given to foreign navies.
Here is a list of some of them.
U.S.S. Amycus (ARL2)
|U.S.S. Askari (ARL30)||U.S.S. Atlas (ARL7)|
U.S.S. Belerophon (ARL31)
|U.S.S. Chimaria (ARL33)||U.S.S. Egeria (ARL8)|
|U.S.S. Indra (ARL37)||U.S.S. Krishna (ARL38)||U.S.S. Monitaur (ARL15)|
|U.S.S. Mymdon (ARL16)||U.S.S. Pandemus (ARL18)||U.S.S Satyr (ARL23)|
|U.S.S. Sphinx (ARL24)||U.S.S. Stentor (ARL26)||U.S.S Typhon (ARL28)|
The conversion to an ARL was done mainly on the large interior "tank deck", which was divided up into several shops and store rooms, and by adding superstructure on the main deck forward of the existing deck house. Two large cargo booms were added forward, and a large 60 ton "A" frame boom on the port side amidships. The wheel house/chart room deck was expanded to include a full CIC, and a conning station added on top. Otherwise an ARL was pretty much like an ordinary WWII LST.
The ship's company was made up of the usual LST compliment of Deck, Engineering, and Communications departments, and were accompanied by large Repair and Supply departments. The Repair Department consisted of Machinery and Engine Repair, Carpenter Shop, Electronics Repair, and Hull Repair divisions. The boats they worked on varied from mostly landing craft though the Korean war to an assortment of river craft in Vietnam including some used by the Army. The Supply Department kept "central storerooms" to furnish the parts and materiel. A normal compliment of officers and crew would be somewhat over 250 men.
The illustration below depicts many of the conversion features: