Special Mission

Special Mission (PM2)
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Our Special Mission (PM2) program has approximately 21 ships that provide operating platforms and services for a wide variety of U.S. military and other U.S. government missions.

Oceanographic and hydrographic surveys, underwater surveillance, missile tracking, acoustic surveys, and submarine and special warfare support are just a few of the specialized services provided to:

  • U.S. Fleet Forces Command
  • The Oceanographer of the Navy
  • Commander, Undersea Surveillance
  • The U.S. Air Force
  • Naval Sea Systems Command
  • Navy's Strategic Systems Programs Office
  • Naval Special Warfare Command
  • Commander, Navy Installations Command
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Commander, Submarine Force
  • Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Special mission ships are operated by civilian mariners who work for private companies under contract to MSC.

Ship Types

Cable Laying & Repair Ship. USNS Zeus is the Navy's only cable-laying/repair ship and can lay up to 1,000 miles of cable in depths up to 9,000 feet during a single deployment before having to restock its cable supply.

Missile range instrumentation ships serve as platforms for monitoring missile launches and collecting data that can be used to improve missile efficiency and accuracy. These ships monitor foreign missile and weapons tests that may pose potential threats to air or surface navigation. They also monitor domestic weapons systems tests to provide valuable feedback to U.S. weapons systems designers.

The navigation test support ship supports our Navy's Strategic Systems Programs Office by assisting with submarine weapons and navigation system testing. The ship tracks missile test launches from Navy submarines to collect important performance data. The ship also conducts operational tests of upgrades to submarine navigation systems.

Ocean surveillance ships directly support our Navy by using both passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect and track undersea threats.

Oceanographic survey ships perform acoustic, biological, physical and geophysical surveys, providing much of the U.S. military's information on the ocean environment. These ships use multi-beam, wide-angle, precision sonar systems that make it possible to continuously chart a broad section of ocean floor.

MSC operates and maintains the Sea-based X-band radar platform, known as SBX-1 and is part of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System. The ocean-going vessel helps the United States and its allies defend against regional missile threats by carrying the world's largest phased-array X-band radar, which tracks, discriminates and assesses hostile ballistic missiles. The semi-submersible, self-propelled vessel serves as a mobile platform for dome-shaped radar.

MSC operates five submarine and special warfare support ships for our Navy. These ships support Naval Special Warfare Command and support our Navy's submarine escort requirements.