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Afloat pre-positioning force

Definition Afloat Pre-Positioning Force (APF) refers to a strategic deployment concept in which military equipment and supplies are pre-positioned on ships placed at strategic locations around the world. This approach aims to enhance the readiness and responsiveness of military forces, as well as reduce the time needed for deployment during a crisis or conflict. The […]


Afloat Pre-Positioning Force (APF) refers to a strategic deployment concept in which military equipment and supplies are pre-positioned on ships placed at strategic locations around the world. This approach aims to enhance the readiness and responsiveness of military forces, as well as reduce the time needed for deployment during a crisis or conflict. The APF enables rapid and flexible support to military operations, especially in locations with limited infrastructure or during sudden emergencies.

Key Takeaways

  1. Afloat Pre-positioning Force (APF) is a strategic military concept that involves having maritime vessels stationed at various strategic locations across the globe. These vessels are pre-loaded with military supplies, equipment, fuel, and other necessary provisions to ensure fast and efficient response during a crisis or a conflict.
  2. The primary purpose of APF is to significantly reduce the response times during military operations, humanitarian assistance, or disaster relief missions. This is achieved by having the supplies already positioned close to the areas of interest, ensuring rapid delivery of critical equipment and personnel when necessary, and allowing the US military to establish a presence more quickly.
  3. The APF fleet is comprised of a mixture of military cargo vessels and commercial cargo ships, managed by the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command. These ships are often deployed for naval exercises and joint military operations with partner nations, so as to facilitate training and improve interoperability with allied forces in real-world scenarios.


The term “Afloat Pre-Positioning Force” (APF) is important in military operations as it pertains to a strategic deployment method where military assets such as equipment, supplies, and vehicles are pre-positioned afloat on strategically located ships.

This enables rapid response and mobilization in times of crisis or military contingencies.

By having these assets readily available, the military can substantially decrease the time required to transport and deploy resources to an area of conflict, allowing for a more agile and proactive response.

Furthermore, this method helps mitigate logistical challenges that may arise due to limited access or infrastructure deficiencies in the region where the mission is being conducted.

Overall, APF serves a crucial role in enhancing the force projection and deployment capabilities of military forces, ensuring timely and effective action when required.


Afloat Pre-Positioning Force (APF) is a strategic military initiative aimed at enhancing the readiness and responsiveness of armed forces during various operations, such as humanitarian relief, disaster assistance, and combat missions. The primary purpose of this concept is to shorten the response time in deploying vital assets and resources necessary to effectively execute and sustain missions abroad. It ensures that troops receive the required equipment, supplies, and support promptly, regardless of the geographical location.

By maintaining a consistent presence of pre-positioned assets in strategic maritime locations, APF significantly bolsters the capability of forces to react and adapt to emerging contingencies, thereby providing a critical advantage in rapidly evolving situations. The implementation of APF involves deploying and maintaining a fleet of ships loaded with essential military equipment, supplies, and resources at strategic locations around the globe. This pre-positioned force acts as a mobile reserve, significantly reducing the time it takes to deliver resources and equipment to a designated area upon receiving an order.

Consequently, the receiving forces can promptly initiate operations without having to wait for support originating from far-off bases. This rapid response is particularly valuable in time-sensitive missions or unforeseen emergencies where a delay could compromise the outcome of the operation or prolong human suffering during crises. Overall, the Afloat Pre-Positioning Force plays a pivotal role in increasing the operational reach and efficiency of military forces while simultaneously reinforcing their capacity to manage varying scenarios that call for swift and decisive action.

Examples of Afloat pre-positioning force

Operation Desert Shield (1990): Afloat Pre-positioning Force (APF) ships played a crucial role in the rapid deployment of US military assets during Operation Desert Shield. The US had strategically loaded military equipment, vehicles, and supplies on several ships that were in key locations around the world. As Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait unfolded, the APF ships in Diego Garcia were able to expedite their delivery of essential equipment and material to the Persian Gulf region, significantly contributing to the success and effectiveness of the U.S. military during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief during Typhoon Haiyan (2013): When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the U.S. military deployed a maritime pre-positioning ship to provide humanitarian aid. This vessel was part of an Afloat Pre-positioning Force and carried essential supplies such as food, water, medical supplies, and heavy-lift equipment. The rapid response was integral in supporting the relief efforts and in providing assistance to the affected communities.

Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003): During the buildup to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. leveraged several APF ships to pre-position equipment and supplies in the Gulf region. This allowed for the rapid projection of military power, minimizing the time it took to start combat operations during the invasion of Iraq. This strategy was essential in maintaining the momentum of U.S. forces and ensuring a swift and decisive victory in the early stages of the conflict.

Afloat Pre-Positioning Force (APF) FAQ

What is the Afloat Pre-Positioning Force (APF)?

The Afloat Pre-Positioning Force (APF) is a strategic U.S. Navy program that maintains a fleet of vessels loaded with military equipment, supplies, and provisions at strategic locations around the world. This allows the military to quickly respond to crises and conflicts by ensuring that necessary assets are available and can be quickly transported to the area of operation.

What is the main purpose of the APF?

The main purpose of the APF is to increase the responsiveness and flexibility of U.S. military forces by pre-positioning key assets in strategic locations. In case of crises, contingencies, or humanitarian operations, the APF can provide rapid delivery of critical equipment and supplies to support U.S. and allied military operations, thus allowing a more rapid response to emerging events.

What types of vessels are used in the APF?

The Afloat Pre-Positioning Force consists of several types of vessels, including large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ships, container ships, and crane ships. These vessels are designed to carry a wide variety of cargo, including vehicles, heavy equipment, maintenance supplies, ammunition, and provisions to support military forces in potential conflict zones.

Where are the APF ships located?

APF ships are generally positioned in strategic locations around the world, often near potential hotspots or in areas where they can rapidly respond to crises. This can include regions such as the Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Indian Ocean, among others. The exact position of these ships may vary depending on the evolving geopolitical landscape and specific mission requirements.

Are APF ships solely operated by the U.S. military?

While APF ships are part of a U.S. military program, many of the vessels are operated by civilian mariners as part of the Military Sealift Command (MSC). The MSC employs civil service mariners to crew and maintain these ships, with a limited military detachment aboard to handle specific military functions such as cargo and weapons handling.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS)
  • Military Sealift Command (MSC)
  • Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)
  • Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB)
  • Logistics Support Vessel (LSV)

Sources for More Information

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