MSC 2008 in Review

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Special Mission

Special Mission Ships - 26

(as of Sept. 30, 2008)

Submarine and Special Warfare
   Support Ships - 7

MV C-Champion
MV C-Commando
MV Dolores Chouest
MV HOS Bluewater
MV HOS Gemstone
MV HOS Greystone
MV HOS Silverstar

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
USNS Able (T-AGOS 20)
USNS Effective (T-AGOS 21)
USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS 23)
USNS Loyal (T-AGOS 22)
USNS Victorious (T-AGOS 19)

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

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)

Command Ship - 1
USNS Mount Whitney (LCC 20)

Submarine Tender - 1
USS Emory S. Land (AS 39)*

* Not Yet Operational

T
he Special Mission Program operated a variety of seagoing platforms in FY 2008 to support U.S. government agencies, including U.S. Fleet Forces Command; the Oceanographer of the Navy; Commander, Undersea Surveillance; Naval Sea Systems Command; the Navy's Strategic Systems Program Office; Naval Special Warfare Command; Commander, Navy Installations Command; the Navy's Submarine Forces; the U.S. Air Force; and the Environmental Protection Agency. Civilian mariners employed by companies under contract to MSC operated the majority of these ships. Agency-provided technicians, including U.S. military and civilian personnel, performed the mission work and specialized shipboard tasks. Three special mission ships were crewed by federal civil service mariners. The program also provided contract management support for Navy Installations Command requirements for chartered harbor tugs and port operations.

Submarine and Special Warfare Support Ships

MSC began FY 2008 with nine chartered ships supporting the Navy's submarine and special warfare requirements. MV Kellie Chouest, MV Carolyn Chouest, MV HOS Greystone, MV HOS Bluewater, MV HOS Silverstar and MV HOS Gemstone provided deep submergence rescue and submarine escort support services for the Navy's submarine forces.

MV Dolores Chouest, MV C-Commando and MV C-Champion supported Navy Special Warfare Command requirements. In September 2008, MV Carolyn Chouest and MV Kellie Chouest completed their chartered service to MSC and were redelivered to their owners.

MV Carolyn Chouest
MSC submarine support vessel MV Carolyn Chouest and fast attack submarine USS Alexandria are covered in snow at Naval Submarine Base New London. Photo by John Narewski.

An engineer prepares a side-scan sonar for launch
An engineer prepares a side-scan sonar for launch during an at-sea capabilities demonstration in the Black Sea aboard MSC oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder. Photo by MC2 Jenniffer Rivera.

Oceanographic Survey Ships

MSC's seven oceanographic survey ships used precise multi-beam, wide-angle, hydrographic sonar systems to collect water depth measurements and other related data. The information was used to produce accurate charts and other products for Navy war fighters.

In addition to survey work, USNS Sumner, with its naval mobile instrumentation system, provided down-range missile tracking for the Navy's Strategic Systems Program Office.

USNS Pathfinder operated in the European area during 2008, supporting Exercise Baltic Operations and visiting Estonia where the ship's crew demonstrated the ship's capabilities in an attempt to locate a Finnish airplane shot down during World War II. The ship also visited the Black Sea, locating the wrecks of a World War I Russian mine-laying ship and a World War II German submarine and making a port visit in Sevastopol, Ukraine. In September 2008, USNS John McDonnell, working in conjunction with Philippine Navy hydrographers, located the wreckage of a downed Philippine air force troop transport plane that had crashed at sea.

Ocean Surveillance Ships

USNS Mary Sears
USNS Mary Sears' Chief Mate gives a tour of the bridge
MSC oceanographic survey ship USNS Mary Sears' Chief Mate Andrew Swan gives a tour of the bridge to visiting Indonesian officers. The visit marks 30 years of bilateral cooperation in hydrographic surveying between the U.S. and Indonesian navies. Photos by Edward Baxter.

In the Western Pacific Ocean, five ocean surveillance ships – USNS Effective, USNS Loyal, USNS Impeccable, USNS Victorious and MV Cory Chouest – continued to provide direct support to 7th Fleet units by listening for undersea threats. In addition, Impeccable and Cory Chouest supported the fleet with low-frequency active systems and passive arrays.

A sixth ocean surveillance ship, USNS Able, completed reactivation and conversion to low-frequency, active-array system operations after transiting to the West Coast. Upon completing this work, the ship transited to the Far East operating area.

In June, Cory Chouest transited to the West Coast for mission systems removal, and then proceeded to Louisiana for redelivery to the owners. This completed the ship's almost 20 years of service to the Navy's undersea surveillance community.

Missile Range Instrumentation Ships

Missile range instrumentation ships USNS Observation Island in the Western Pacific Ocean and USNS Invincible in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea supported the U.S. Air Force as seaborne platforms for radar systems that collected data on theater ballistic missiles launched by various countries, as well as domestic test flights of other missiles. Invincible completed a shipyard availability in Singapore, undergoing significant changes to the configuration of its mission suite.

Acoustic Survey Ship

USNS Hayes has operated as an acoustic survey ship for Naval Sea Systems Command and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in support of the U.S. Navy's submarine noise reduction program. The ship completed its final mission in September 2008 before beginning the deactivation process.

Navigation Test Support Ship

Navigation test support ship USNS Waters continued operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, supporting weapons and navigation systems testing for the Navy's Strategic Systems Program Office.

Cable Laying/Repair Ship

USNS Zeus continued as the Navy's only cable laying/repair ship. The ship started the year in a reduced operating status in Cheatham Annex, Va., transitioning to full operating status in February. After passing an inspection and survey and upon completing mission preparations, the ship transited to the Pacific Ocean for operations.

Command Ship

Command ship USS Mount Whitney continued to support 6th Fleet operations in 2008, participating in several NATO exercises and familiarization voyages to meet 6th Fleet's theater engagement efforts. The ship played a role in exercise Austere Challenge in the Mediterranean Sea in April and May, supported humanitarian assistance operations in the Black Sea near Georgia in August and concluded the year supporting exercise Noble Midas in the waters off Croatia in September.

In FY 2008, Mount Whitney was one of MSC's two commissioned ships with hybrid crews composed of Navy sailors and CIVMARs under the leadership of a Navy captain. The second ship was submarine tender USS Emory S. Land. The CIVMARs aboard both ships were responsible for navigation, deck, engineering, laundry and galley services, while the military crew members were in charge of communications, mission requirements and weapons systems.

USS Emory S. Land
Sailors aboard submarine tender USS Emory S. Land man the rails as the ship departs Italy. The ship transferred to MSC in February and has a hybrid crew of sailors and civil service mariners. Photo by MC2 Jesus Uranga.

Submarine Tenders

MSC assumed responsibility for USS Emory S. Land in February. While the ship was not yet operational, a reduced crew was on board while the ship was at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an extensive drydock availability.

High-Speed Vessel

Chartered commercial vessel HSV 2 Swift conducted various missions for U.S. Fleet Forces Command to support the Navy's littoral combat ship program. The bareboat charter for the ship concluded in July, and the ship was redelivered to its owners in Louisiana.

Harbor Tug and Port Services

The Special Mission Program continued to manage the Navy's harbor tug and port services contracts worldwide. MSC administers contracts that provide on-call civilian harbor tugs in 13 ports and time-charter tugs in nine ports. Ten contracts provide resupply, crew launches and dockside utilities for the Navy in five ports.