Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 4

Ben Holehouse LT Donahue Research Paper 30 September 2011 Missile Range Instrumentation Ships Military Sealift Command, or MSC,

is an organization dedicated to serving the United States Department of Defense. The naval organization is vital in that it provides the essential link between military operations and logistics. MSC is responsible for transporting supplies and equipment to U.S. troops worldwide by way of sea and has done so since its inception in World War II. Since then, MSC has expanded to better serve the Department of Defense and its objectives. The organizations primary sealift mission now encompasses many other areas of operation and service. Therefore, MSC employs various types of ships capable of performing a range of different tasks underway. One such ship type in the MSC fleet is that of missile range instrumentation ships. These ships are utilized by MSC primarily to monitor foreign missile activity and to execute data gathering missions. To better understand the mission and importance of range instrumentation ships we can look at their development, their purpose relative to the overall mission of MSC, and the ways in which they fulfill their purpose. The history behind every missile range instrumentation ship, or tracking ship, began with conversion. Of the twenty four range instrumentation ships used by MSC, twenty three were previously merchant vessels and one was an ocean-surveillance ship. Once the military acquired these ships from the previous owners they sent them to shipyards to be converted. During conversion these ships were equipped with radar and other electronics necessary to accomplish

the task of missile tracking. Most tracking ships were converted from ships built during or after World War II. The initial drive for mobile missile ranging systems came in response to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War in the middle of the twentieth century. The ships were used to report on adverse nuclear armament and suspicious activity involving such. Also around this time was the worldwide space race in which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, used the ships to conduct missile and space operations. All of the range instrumentation ships eventually fell under MSC control though they were used mostly by the Air Force and NASA. Under MSC, the ships were classified by number with the prefix of TAGM which signified that they were MSC general purpose missile ranging vessels. In accordance with the age of the ships and the decrease in their use with time, only two missile range instrumentation ships are currently in service for MSC; the USNS Observation Island (TAGM-23) and the USNS Invincible (T-AGM-24). These two active missile instrumentation ships serve the MSC in a specific way. The ships are classified under the special mission program, or PM2, which is one of the four mission areas MSC has adapted. PM2 operates in conjunction with the naval fleet auxiliary force (PM1), prepositioning (PM3), and sealift (PM5) programs. The special mission program consists of 26 ships that provide operating platforms and services for a wide variety of U.S. military and other U.S.

USNS Observation Island

government missions (msc_web). Included in this program are oceanographic survey ships, cable laying/ repair ships, submarine tenders, command ships, and other specialized vessels all fitted to complete their missions. The MSC states that the mission of missile instrumentation

ships is to provide platforms for monitoring missile launches and collecting data that can be used to improve missile efficiency and accuracy (msc_web). So how do these range instrumentation ships go about accomplishing the tasks of missile tracking and data collection? The answer involves an understanding of the ships capabilities. Aboard both in service range instrumentation ships is an assortment of electronics, the most important of which is usually a phased-array radar system. These powerful dual band radars operate at high frequencies sending and receiving short wave transmissions that return clear radar

USNS Invincible

images (air_web). These systems along with other analytical equipment are crucial to the ability of tracking ships to monitor

foreign missile and weapons tests that may pose potential threats to air or surface navigation (msc_web). Today though, the these ships are more accurately referred to as research and development vessels, seeing as both the Observation Island and the Invincible are currently used by the U.S. Air Force in collecting data for missile tests. In conclusion, the missile range instrumentation ships today are multi-faceted units. Their objectives of recon and testing serve the armed forces, scientific agencies, and system designers. And although the strategic advantage of these vessels has become somewhat lost to modern technologies the ships are still purposefully employed. As a component of a superior naval force, missile range instrumentation ships contribute to national defense, security, and prosperity by serving their role in the grand scheme of maritime operations.

Works Cited (Air_web) Goldberg, Sam. "How Things Work: Phased-Array Radar | How Things Work | Air & Space Magazine." History of Flight, Aviation, Space Exploration | AirSpaceMag.com. Smithsonian Institution, 1 July 2006. Web. 30 Sept. 2011. <http://www.airspacemag.com/how-things-work/phased-array-radar.html>.

"Navy Knowledge Online." Web. 30 Sept. 2011. <https://wwwa.nko.navy.mil/portal/home/>.

Polmar, Norman. The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. 18th ed. Annapolis: US Naval Institute, 2005. Print.

(msc_web) "Special Mission Program (PM2)." Military Sealift Command. Web. 30 Sept. 2011. <http://www.msc.navy.mil/pm2/>.