SC's Special Mission Program ships provide diverse support to the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies.
Support includes oceanographic survey, ocean surveillance, counter-drug operations, submarine support, missile range instrumentation (including Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty verification), acoustic research, underwater cable repair, submarine navigation testing and ballistic missile test support. Civilian mariners employed by companies under contract to MSC operate the majority of special mission ships; however, four ships are crewed by federal civil service mariners. Embarked civilian sponsor technicians and military personnel conduct the missions and perform specialized shipboard tasks such as communications.
|Civilian mariners employed by companies under contract to MSC operate the majority of special mission ships|
Five oceanographic survey ships – USNS Pathfinder, USNS Sumner, USNS Bowditch, USNS Henson and USNS Bruce C. Heezen – studied the world's oceans using multi-beam, wide-angle, precision hydrographic sonar systems to collect bathymetric data. A sixth ship, USNS Kane, completed her almost 34 years of MSC service March 14 and was turned over to the Turkish navy and redesignated TCG Candarli.
Two coastal survey ships, USNS John McDonnell and USNS Littlehales, surveyed the sea bottom and collected data in the littoral area along coastlines.
A new oceanographic survey ship, USNS Mary Sears, was under construction as of Sept. 30, 2001.
Seven government-owned ships and one chartered vessel supported the Navy's undersea surveillance needs in FY 2001. USNS Prevail, USNS Assertive, USNS Bold, USNS Loyal, USNS Victorious, USNS Able, USNS Effective and MV Cory Chouest worked directly with units from the Navy’s numbered fleets.
MV Cory Chouest, a privately owned and MSC-chartered ship, also continued to test a new sonar system. This new system will be installed on a new MSC surveillance vessel, USNS Impeccable, to provide both active and passive sonar capabilities. Impeccable was under construction as of Sept. 30, 2001.
|The twin hulls of USNS Impeccable are an impressive sight at Halter Marine Shipyard in Moss Point, Miss. Photo by Rebecca Rogers.|
USNS Stalwart, USNS Indomitable and USNS Capable, three modified ocean surveillance ships, supported U.S. counter-drug efforts in the Caribbean Sea and the Eastern Pacific Ocean. They were under the tactical control of the Joint Interagency Task Force East.
|Crew members from USNS Indomitable take supplies to the 149 stranded passengers aboard Ecuadorian boat Fortuna. Photo by Ellen Bye.|
Designed to remain at sea for long periods, the unique mission of the ships involved monitoring and detecting illegal drug traffic in coordination with other federal agencies and law enforcement assets.
|Counter-drug ships were designed to remain at sea for long periods of time.|
USNS Persistent and USNS Vindicator, former ocean surveillance ships, supported U.S. Coast Guard counter-drug missions until funding for the program was exhausted. These ships embarked Coast Guard law enforcement personnel who used high-speed chase boats to apprehend drug traffickers. USNS Persistent conducted missions until March 2001 and USNS Vindicator operated until April 2001. Both ships were then transferred to the Coast Guard.
USNS Observation Island is the oldest ship in MSC service, with almost 48 years of service, and the second oldest operational ship in the Navy – USS Constitution is oldest. Observation Island tracks missiles and test launches and compiles telemetry data, as well as monitoring compliance with the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. The ship also supports the U.S. Air Force’s Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
USNS Invincible, another former ocean surveillance ship, performed as a seaborne platform for a U.S. Air Force radar system that collects telemetry data on theater ballistic missiles.
Four chartered ships provided deep submergence support, salvage support, submarine escort/rescue assistance and support for the Navy's advanced swimmer delivery system. MV Carolyn Chouest and MV Dolores Chouest operated on the Atlantic coast, MV Kellie Chouest operated on the West coast, and MV C Commando operated out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
C Commando also provided surface support for special warfare exercises, submarine sea trials/deep dives, mine recovery operations and unmanned vehicle operations and mother ship support for submarine rescue chamber operations. C Commando helped locate Japanese vessel FV Ehime Maru after its collision with a U.S. submarine by using the remotely controlled vehicle Scorpio and a side-scanning sonar.
MV Kellie Chouest operates off the Pacific coast. She is a chartered U.S.-flagged ship capable of launching and recovering deep submergence rescue vehicles.
Acoustic research ship USNS Hayes conducted sound-measuring surveys in support of the submarine noise-reduction program. In FY 2001, Hayes supported several missions involving the new Seawolf-class submarine.
USNS Waters supported submarine navigation system testing for the Strategic Systems Program and served as the launch area support ship for ballistic missile flight tests.
USNS Zeus, the Navy’s only dedicated cable ship, operated worldwide in FY 2001, laying, repairing and burying submarine cables.