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USNS Gen Hoyt S Vandenburg (T-AGM 10) in July 1965.
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Class: GEN H H ARNOLD (T-AGM 9)
Design: MC C4-S-A1
Displacement (tons): 16,600 full
Dimensions (feet): 523' oa, 496' wl x 72' e/wl x 26.3'
Accommodations: 90 civilian and 113 technicians. As of 1 July 1964 ARNOLD had 16 officers, 44 Merchant Marine crew, and 66 civilian technicians.
Speed (kts.): 16.5
Propulsion (HP): 9,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (465psi/765deg), 1 screw
|9||GEN H H ARNOLD||1 Jul 1964||Kaiser, Richmond #3||16 Dec 1943||27 Apr 1944||COM/SRV|
|10||GEN HOYT S VANDENBERG||1 Jul 1964||Kaiser, Richmond #3||22 Feb 1943||10 Oct 1943||COM/SRV|
|9||GEN H H ARNOLD||T||1982||1 Mar 1982||25 Mar 1982||MA/C||8 Jun 1982|
|10||GEN HOYT S VANDENBERG||T||8 Feb 1983||29 Apr 1993||4 Feb 1994||MA/T||--|
While the Navy was operating the Pacific Missile Range, extending into the Central Pacific from the Naval Air Missile Test Center (NAMTC) at Point Mugu, California, the Air Force was operating a 5,000 mile Eastern Test Range (Atlantic Missile Range) extending from Cape Canaveral in Florida to the vicinity of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. (It also had a Western Test Range headquartered at Vandenburg AFB, California.) Both ranges required Missile Range Instrumentation Ships, and the Navy converted seven Victory ships (T-AGM 1 and 3-8) between 1958 and 1964 for use on its range. The Air Force started by converting six small Army FS-type ships to missile range ships in 1957-58 (see T-AGM 2). These were soon supplemented, then replaced, by six C1-M-AV1 cargo ships (see AGM 13-18) and in 1960 by a single Victory ship (see T-AGM 11). The Air Force took a big step forward when, as related in an OPNAV internal memorandum dated 9 January 1961, it was authorized by DOD to reprogram $47 million of FY 1961 RDT&E funds to outfit two C4 conversions in conjuction with "Project Penetration" (an effort to observe nose cone re-entry) and to provide for further requirements for long range communications for the Atlantic Missile Range. At this time the Air Force was developing the Minuteman I ICBM, which was first test fired on 1 February 1961 from Cape Canaveral. A contract for $70.3 million to convert the two ships was awarded on 24 June 1961. The two C4s later became T-AGM 9-10. In addition the Air Force was carrying in its FY 1962 budget estimates $25.7 million for a third ship to be outfitted as a "communications ship." On 4 August 1961 the Air Force requested from MARAD the C4-S-A3 vessel MARINE TIGER for use as the FY 1962 communications ship but the request was eventually cancelled. (MARINE TIGER was sold to the Waterman Steamship Corp. in 1964 and was converted to a container ship in 1966.)
GENERAL H H ARNOLD and GENERAL HOYT S VANDENBERG were converted into Advanced Range Instrument Ships (ARIS I and ARIS II) by Bethlehem Steel's Brooklyn 56th Street shipyard and drydocked at Bethlehem's Hoboken (N.J.) shipyard just before delivery to the Air Force. The prime contractor was Sperry Rand and the design agent for the conversion was Gibbs & Cox. The aft dish was a 30 ft telemetry antenna, the 40' midship dish on ARNOLD was an X and L band radar capable of tracking a 15 inch sphere to 1500 miles while on VANDENBURG it was an X and UHF band radar, and the 30' forward dish was a C Band radar. The ships were to operate on stations in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean, thereby doubling the length of the Atlantic Missile Range. They would be stationed within a few miles of the impact point of missile shots to observe re-entry phenomena and determine the accuracy of the shot. Each was manned by 100 crew members to run the ship and 100 technical personnel, although these numbers varied. They were manned under management of Marine Transport Lines under sub-contract to Pan American World Airways, the prime contractor for operation of the range. RCA supplied the technical staff.
On 16 November 1963 SECDEF assigned to MSTS the responsibility for the provision, conversion, alteration, maintenance, and operation of all DOD general purpose instrumentation ships in support of DOD and NASA tracking reqirements worldwide. On 7 February Commander MSTS reported agreement had been reached with the Air Force Systems Command for assumption of administrative and operational control of ten Atlantic Missile Range ships. On 1 May 1964 SECNAV directed that they were to be instated or reinstated in the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) as T-AGM 9 to T-AGM 18 effective the first day of the month following the date of their acceptance by the Navy. These two ships, originally the troop transports GENERAL R E CALLAN (AP 139) and GENERAL HARRY TAYLOR (AP 145), had been stricken from the NVR and transferred to MA on 29 May 1958 and 10 Jul 1958 respectively. MA transferred them to the USAF on 6 Jul 1961 and 15 Jul 1961 for use as the missile range tracking ships GENERAL H H ARNOLD and GENERAL HOYT S VANDENBERG. They were transferred from the Air Force to MARAD and reinstated on the NVR as T-AGM 9 and T-AGM 10 on 1 Jul 1964, although they remained under Air Force operational control. At that time ARNOLD was at sea and VANDENBURG was under conversion at the Bethlehem Steel Key Highway shipyard at Baltimore. Their Air Force commercial manning arrangements were continued until MARAD was directed as of January 1968, despite opposition from Congressional supporters of the merchant marine including L. Mendell Rivers, to man all range instrumentation ships with its own civil service personnel. VANDENBURG was to change crews in January and February 1968 wile undergoing modifications at Seattle (she had been redelivered by her commercial operator at Northwest Marine Iron Works, Portland, Ore. on 15 September 1967 for alterations), and a rotation from a commercial to a MSTS crew for ARNOLD in March 1968 occurred at Pearl Harbor 24 April 1968. They were retired in 1982 and 1983.
|9||GEN H H ARNOLD||662||(ex-AP 139) (ex-GEN R E CALLAN, AP 139, compl. 7 Jun 1944). To MA 29 May 1958 after postwar MSTS service as T-AP 139. To USAF 6 Jun 1961, renamed "E-2-1908 GENERAL H H ARNOLD" 29 March 1963, delivered on 2 April 1963 after conversion. To MA custody 25 Mar 1982. To buyer 25 Oct 1982.|
|10||GEN HOYT S VANDENBERG||702||(ex-AP 145, compl. 29 Mar 1944) (ex-GEN HARRY TAYLOR, AP 145). To MA 10 Jul 1958 after postwar MSTS service as T-AP 145. To USAF 15 Jul 1961. Name changed in ABS registry 11 Jun 1963 to "E-2-1907 GENERAL HOYT S VANDENBURG." Delivered to the Air Force about 2 months after ARNOLD. MSTS accepted custody at the Bethlehem Steel Key Highway Shipyard 13 Jul 1964 retroactive to 1 Jul 1964. To MA custody 8 Feb 1983, title to MA 4 Feb 1994. Temporarily titled back to NAVSEA 10 Sep 1996, withdrawn from JRRF 25 Sep 1996. Used for film "Virus" early 1997, returned to JRRF 19 Jun 1997 (still displaying the Russian lettering and ornate paint scheme from the film), title back to MA 1 May 1999. Approved for transfer from MA to the state of Florida 13 Feb 2007 for reefing, departed NDRF 30 March 2007, sunk as artificial reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary 27 May 2009.|
Compiled: 18 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021