MSC 2011 in Review

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Special Mission

Special Mission Ships - 26

(as of Sept. 30, 2011)

Submarine and Special Warfare
Support Ships - 8

MV HOS Arrowhead
MV HOS Black Powder
MV C-Champion
MV C-Commando
MV Dolores Chouest
MV HOS Dominator
MV HOS Eagle View
MV HOS Westwind

Oceanographic Survey Ships - 6
USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62)
USNS Bruce C. Heezen (T-AGS 64)
USNS Henson (T-AGS 63)
USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60)
USNS Mary Sears (T-AGS 65)
USNS Sumner (T-AGS 61)

Ocean Surveillance Ships - 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 Ships - 2
USNS Invincible (T-AGM 24)
USNS Observation Island (T-AGM 23)

Submarine Tenders - 2
USS Emory S. Land (AS 39)
USS Frank Cable (AS 40)

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

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

Command Ship - 1
USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20)

T
he Special Mission Program operated a variety of seagoing platforms in FY 2011 to support U.S. government agencies, including: U.S. Fleet Forces Command; the Oceanographer of the Navy; Commander, Pacific Fleet; Commander, Undersea Surveillance; 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. Four special mission ships were crewed by CIVMARs. 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 operated eight chartered ships in support of the Navy's submarine and special warfare requirements. MV HOS Westwind, MV HOS Black Powder, MV HOS Eagle View and MV HOS Arrowhead provided submarine-escort support services for the Navy's submarine forces. MV HOS Dominator was delivered to MSC Jan. 31 to provide submarine rescue support. MV Dolores Chouest, MV C-Commando and MV C-Champion supported Naval Special Warfare Command requirements.

Navy ROTC midshipmen
Navy ROTC midshipmen transfer from ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island to MSC submarine and special warfare support ship MV HOS Westwind during a training deployment in the Atlantic Ocean in July. Photo by MC1 James Kimber.

Oceanographic Survey Ships

MSC's six 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 warfighters. For example, USNS Bruce C. Heezen supported hydrographic surveys in the harbor area of Maputo, Mozambique, and USNS Bowditch conducted harbor surveys in Vietnam.

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.

Systems engineers inspect sensing gliders
Systems engineers inspect sensing gliders aboard MSC oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder in San Diego in November 2010. Photo by Rick Naystatt.

Ocean Surveillance Ships

In the Western Pacific Ocean, five ocean surveillance ships – USNS Effective, USNS Loyal, USNS Impeccable, USNS Victorious and USNS Able – continued to provide direct support to U.S. 7th Fleet units by listening for undersea threats. In addition, Impeccable and Able supported the fleet with low-frequency active systems and passive arrays. Effective was also fitted with this capability late in 2010 and later underwent testing of the new equipment.

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.

Submarine Tenders

The Navy's submarine tenders operated with hybrid crews composed of CIVMARs performing navigation, deck, engineering, galley and laundry services, and active-duty sailors providing submarine maintenance and repair capabilities, each ship under the leadership of a Navy captain.

USS Emory S. Land provided forward area repair and service facilities for U.S. submarines from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in early FY 2011. While supporting missions for Commander, Submarine Forces, Pacific, Land visited ports in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Seychelles and India. USS Frank Cable, transferred to MSC from the combatant fleet in February 2010, completed several upgrades to support CIVMAR operation and began working in FY 2011.

Navigation Test Support Ship

Navigation test support ship USNS Waters continued operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, 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 completed an overhaul and dry-docking availability in Norfolk in March 2011 and began conducting missions in the Pacific Ocean.

Command Ship

Command ship USS Mount Whitney, a ship designed to accommodate the leadership and control elements of a fleet, continued to support U.S. 6th Fleet operations in FY 2011. Like the submarine tenders, Mount Whitney operated with a hybrid crew. The active-duty sailors were responsible for communications, mission requirements and weapons systems.

Harbor Tug Services

The Special Mission Program continued to manage the Navy's harbor tug contracts worldwide. MSC administered contracts that provided on-call civilian harbor tugs in 13 ports and time-charter tugs in eight ports.

MSC transferred management of the port service contracts back to Commander, Naval Installation Command.

Three MSC-contracted
harbor tugs
Three MSC-contracted harbor tugs assist guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin and the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas in departing Naval Station Norfolk ahead of Hurricane Irene in August. Photo by MC 2 Eric S. Garst.

Environmental Protection Agency

MSC contracted for the operation and maintenance of ocean survey vessel OSV Bold to support the Environmental Protection Agency. Bold helped monitor and assess the impact of human activities and natural ecological disturbances on ocean and coastal waters. Data collected by Bold's mission crew enabled observation of the changes caused by pollution and aided in developing strategies to protect and preserve ocean and coastal resources.

OSV Bold
OSV Bold is the Environmental Protection Agency's only ocean and coastal monitoring ship. Bold, a converted MSC T-AGOS-class ship, is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including side-scan sonar, underwater video, water-sampling instruments and sediment-sampling devices. MSC contracted for the operation and maintenance of this ship on behalf of the EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency photo by Cindy Falvey.