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Special Mission (PM2)
Our Special Mission (PM2) program has approximately 20 ships that provide operating platforms and services for a wide variety of U.S. military and other U.S. government missions.

Special Mission

Our Special Mission (PM2) program has approximately 20 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


Most special mission ships are government-owned and operated by U.S. commercial mariners working for companies under contract to MSC. Other ships are contracted to MSC and are crewed by U.S. commercial mariners.

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

Ship Photos

In this file photo, sailors assigned to the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) depart the Military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Able (T-AGOS 20) after completing a VBSS drill aboard the vessel, May, 31, 2009. Mustin is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and operates from Yokosuka, Japan.
USNS Impeccable
USNS Henson
Sea-based, X-band Radar
The USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25) passes Astoria, Ore., as it departs the Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean, May 16, 2014. The USNS Howard O. Lorenzen is named for the late Naval Research Laboratory electrical engineer who was instrumental in the creation of the electronic intelligence capabilities of the United States. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley)
The USNS Bowditch oceanographic survey ship at sea. U.S. Navy photo
USNS Maury

Special Mission Ships

Cable Laying/Repair Ships

CS Global Sentinel

Missile Range Instrumentation Ships

USNS Howard O. Lorenzen

Navigation Test Support Ship

USNS Waters

Ocean Surveillance Ships

USNS Effective
USNS Impeccable
USNS Loyal
HOS Red Rock
USNS Victorious

Oceanographic Survey Ships

USNS Bowditch
USNS Bruce C. Heezen
USNS Henson
USNS Pathfinder
USNS Mary Sears
USNS Marie Tharp

Sea-Based X-Band Radar

Sea-based X-Band Radar

Submarine and Special Warfare Support

USNS Arrowhead
USNS Black Powder
USNS Eagleview
USNS Westwind

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