Our Service Support Program ships provide our Navy with towing, rescue and salvage, submarine support, and cable laying and repair services, as well as a command and control platform and floating medical facilities. The program also includes our Navy's first designated interim afloat forward staging base, USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15).
All ships in the program are government owned and operated by civil service mariners (CIVMARs), experienced maritime professionals sailing as Navy civilians under MSC. Several ships have hybrid crews of CIVMARs and uniformed Navy personnel working under the leadership of a U.S. Navy captain. This crewing structure allows the ships to maintain their commissioned status.
Fleet ocean tugs provide the Navy fleet with towing service and can tow ships as large as an aircraft carrier. When augmented by Navy divers, fleet ocean tugs assist in the recovery of downed aircraft and stranded or grounded ships. These ships can also perform submarine rescue operations when carrying specialized equipment.
Rescue and salvage ships recover objects from the sea, tow or de-beach stranded vessels and provide firefighting assistance. Like fleet ocean tugs, these ships are able to lift objects as heavy as downed aircraft and stranded or grounded ships. A key advantage of these ships is their ability to rapidly deploy divers to conduct rescue and salvage operations.
The Service Support Program operates our Navy's two hospital ships, each containing 12 operating rooms and up to 1,000 beds. The ships are normally kept pier side in reduced operating status. When called into action, they can get underway in five days with an expanded crew of more than 60 CIVMARs and up to approximately 1,200 military medical personnel.
Submarine tenders USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) and USS Frank Cable (AS 40) transferred to MSC in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Like USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and interim afloat forward staging base USS Ponce, the tenders use a hybrid crewing structure.