MSC 2005 in Review

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Special Mission

Special Mission Ships - 24

(as of Sept. 30, 2005)

Oceanographic Survey - 7
USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62)
USNS Bruce C. Heezen (T-AGS 64)
USNS Henson (T-AGS 63)
USNS John McDonnell (T-AGS 51)
USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60)
USNS Mary Sears (T-AGS 65)
USNS Sumner (T-AGS 61)

Ocean Surveillance – 5
MV Cory Chouest (NHN)
USNS Effective (T-AGOS 21)
USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS 23)
USNS Loyal (T-AGOS 22)
USNS Victorious (T-AGOS 19)

Submarine Support - 4
MV Carolyn Chouest
MV Dolores Chouest
MV Kellie Chouest
MV C-Commando

Missile Range Instrumentation - 2
USNS Invincible (T-AGM 24)
USNS Observation Island (T-AGM 23)

Command Ship - 2
USNS Coronado (AGF 11) ROS-30*
USNS Mount Whitney (LCC 20)

Acoustic Survey - 1
USNS Hayes (T-AG 195)

Navigation Test Support - 1
USNS Waters (T-AGS 45)

Cable Laying/repair - 1
USNS Zeus (T-ARC 7)

High-Speed Vessel - 1
HSV-2 Swift

*Reduced Operating Status
(ready to get underway in 30 days)

T
he Special Mission Program carried out diverse assignments for a wide variety of Department of Defense sponsors in FY 2005. Civilian mariners employed by companies under contract to MSC crewed the majority of special mission ships, while customer-provided technicians and U.S. military personnel conducted the mission work and performed specialized shipboard tasks. Three special mission ships were crewed by federal civil service mariners – USNS Zeus, a cable-laying/repair ship, and the command ships USNS Coronado and USS Mount Whitney.

In October 2005, USS Coronado was decommissioned, and the name and designator were changed to USNS Coronado (T-AGF 11). USS Mount Whitney was transferred to MSC for operation in October 2004 and, following a shipyard period in Norfolk in the winter of 2004 to accomplish civilian mariner habitability modifications and essential repairs, assumed duties as the Sixth Fleet flagship at Gaeta, Italy, in March 2005 under the command of a U.S. Navy captain.

A helicopter lands aboard USNS Coronado
Steve Phifer, an MSC civil service mariner, signals to a helicopter as it lands aboard USNS Coronado. The ship served as temporary 7th Fleet flagship, using civil service mariners instead of Sailors to handle the deck, engineering, maintenance and supply functions. Photo by PH3 John Woods, USN.

Oceanographic Survey Ships

A new contractor, Horizon Lines Limited of Kenilworth, N.J., began operating the oceanographic ship fleet in October 2004. USNS Pathfinder in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific, USNS Sumner in the central Pacific and USNS Bowditch, USNS Bruce C. Heezen and USNS Mary Sears in the South and East China Seas conducted surveys of the world's oceans using multi-beam, wide-angle, precision hydrographic sonar systems to collect water depth measurements and other related data.

USNS John McDonnell in the western Pacific and USNS Henson in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility conducted surveys of the sea bottom in the littoral areas along the world's coastlines using the ships' hydrographic survey launches. In December 2004, following the Indonesian tsunami, USNS John McDonnell sailed to survey the affected area to ensure safe navigation for ships conducting relief operations.

USNS Henson
MSC's oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson sailed into Monaco where representatives from the International Hydrographic Association toured the ship. The IHO promotes the safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment. Photo by Deputy Larson.

Ocean Surveillance Ships

In the western Pacific, ocean surveillance ships USNS Loyal, USNS Victorious, USNS Effective, USNS Impeccable and MV Cory Chouest worked directly with units from the Navy's numbered fleets, listening for undersea threats.

Missile Range Instrumentation Ships

Missile range instrumentation ships USNS Observation Island in the Western Pacific and USNS Invincible in the Indian Ocean supported the U.S. Air Force as seaborne platforms for radar systems. The radars supported data collection requirements for theater ballistic missiles, as well as domestic test flights of other missiles.

Submarine Support Ships

Four chartered ships – MV Kellie Chouest, MV Dolores Chouest, MV Carolyn Chouest and MV C-Commando – provided deep submergence support, salvage support and submarine escort/rescue assistance for the U.S. Navy and supported the Navy's advanced swimmer delivery system.

HSV-2 Swift and USNS Yukon

HSV-2 Swift took on fuel from MSC underway replenishment oiler USNS Yukon during Swift's first-ever, at-sea astern refueling in February. Photo by OSC Christopher Pierce, USN.

Acoustic Survey Ship

USNS Hayes, an acoustic survey ship, conducted sound-measuring surveys in support of the U.S. Navy's submarine noise reduction program.

Navigation Test Support Ship

USNS Waters continued operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in support of weapons and navigation system testing.

Cable Laying/Repair Ship

USNS Zeus continued service as the Navy's only dedicated cable ship, laying, repairing and burying sub-sea cables for various Department of Defense sponsors.

High-Speed Vessel

HSV-2 Swift, chartered by MSC, continued to operate for the Navy's Mine Warfare Command. Swift conducted various experimental missions that explored the use of her advanced hull design, propulsion technology and advanced communications to support the littoral combat ship program. Swift participated in joint and combined exercises, demonstrations and training events to develop the interoperability potential of high-speed vessels with causeways, watercraft, amphibious ships and other ship types.

In the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami, Swift provided logistics, shuttle and helicopter maintenance support for the various humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in that region. She also provided similar support after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast.

USS Mount Whitney alongside USS LaSalle
USS Mount Whitney, right, the new command ship for the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet, is moored alongside USS LaSalle in Gaeta, Italy, following a change of command ship ceremony in February. Photo by PH3 Dwayne Minor, USN.

Command Ships

USS Mount Whitney transferred to MSC from combatant fleet operations during FY 2005, but due to the nature of her duties, remained under the command of a U.S. Navy officer. Civilian mariners performed navigation, deck, engineering, laundry and galley service operations while a similar number of military members remained aboard to support communications and weapons systems. USS Coronado performed flag ship duties until February 2005 when she was decommissioned and placed in reduced operating status as USNS Coronado.

Harbor Tug and Port Services

The Special Mission Program continued administrative responsibility for MSC's harbor tug and port services contracts in 2005. MSC contracts for on-call harbor tug services to support Navy ships worldwide. MSC also contracts for other port services including resupply, launches and utilities.