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An auxiliary ship is a naval ship designed to operate in support of combatant ships and other naval operations. Auxiliaries are not primary combatants, although they may have some limited combat capacity, usually of a self-defence nature.
Auxiliaries are extremely important for navies of all sizes, as without them, the primary fleet vessels cannot be effective. Thus, nearly every navy maintains an extensive fleet of auxiliaries. However, the composition and size of these auxiliary fleets varies depending on the nature of each navy and its primary mission. Smaller coastal navies tend to have smaller auxiliary vessels focusing primarily on littoral and training support roles. Larger blue-water navies tend to have large auxiliary fleets comprising longer-range fleet support vessels designed to provide support far beyond territorial waters.
Supporting forward operating bases requires immense transportation capacity. Transports are often converted merchant ships simply commissioned (APA, APD, APH, APV) into naval service. Tankers are transports specifically designed to ship fuel to forward locations. Transports are often employed not only carrying cargo for naval support, but in support of all forces of a nation's military (AK, AKA, AKN, AKR, AKS). In particular, troopships and attack transports are used to carry large number of soldiers to operational theatres. Some transport ships are highly specialized, like the ammunition ships employed by the US Navy. Large ocean tugs (AT, ATO, ATF, ATA, ATR) are used to tow large auxiliary ships, like: barges, floating repair dock and floating cranes in open sea, also disabled ships.
Repairing ships at sea or in forward areas is important as it allows these units to return to service quicker, while also increasing the chance of survival for ships critically damaged in battle. Repair vessels (AR, ARB, ARC, ARG, ARH, ARL, ARV) range from small equipment ships to Auxiliary repair docks, and lager Auxiliary floating drydock.
Harbor support is a critical support role, with various types of vessels including tugboats, barges, lighters, derrick-crane vessels, and others, used to move ships and equipment around the port facilities, and depot ships and tenders to service ships currently in the harbor. These vessels also help maintain the harbor by dredging channels, maintaining jetties and buoys, and even providing floating platforms for port defense weapons. Tugboats are type YT, YTB, YTM, YTL or a Type V ship. Barges are classified as a Type B ship or YF, YFN YFR and YFRN.