Service Support

Service Support (PM4)
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Our Service Support (PM4) program ships provide our Navy with towing, rescue and salvage, submarine support, and cable laying and repair services, as well as a command and control platform and floating medical facilities.

All ships in the program are government-owned and operated by civilian mariners (CIVMARs), experienced maritime professionals sailing as Navy civilians under MSC. Several ships have hybrid crews of CIVMARs and uniformed Navy personnel working under the leadership of a U.S. Navy captain. This crewing structure allows the ships to maintain their commissioned status.

Ship Types

With advanced command, control, communication and computer capabilities, command ship Mount Whitney serves as the U.S. 6th Fleet flagship with the hybrid crewing structure.

Fleet ocean tugs provide the Navy fleet with towing service and can tow ships as large as an aircraft carrier. When augmented by Navy divers, fleet ocean tugs assist in the recovery of downed aircraft and stranded or grounded ships. These ships can also perform submarine rescue operations when carrying specialized equipment.

The Service Support Program operates our Navy's two hospital ships, each containing 12 operating rooms and up to 1,000 beds. The ships are normally kept pier side in reduced operating status. When called into action, they can get underway in five days with an expanded crew of more than 60 CIVMARs and up to approximately 1,200 military medical personnel.

Rescue and salvage ships recover objects from the sea, tow or de-beach stranded vessels and provide firefighting assistance. Like fleet ocean tugs, these ships are able to lift objects as heavy as downed aircraft and stranded or grounded ships. A key advantage of these ships is their ability to rapidly deploy divers to conduct rescue and salvage operations.

Submarine tenders USS Emory S. Land and USS Frank Cable use a hybrid crewing structure, with a combination of military and civilian mariners.

MSC operates three chartered submarine and special warfare support ships. These ships support Naval Special Warfare Command and support our Navy's submarine escort requirements while entering and leaving ports as well as prividing submarine rescue training and exercise support for U.S. 3rd Fleet.