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R/V Melville (AGOR 14) on 9 July 1969.

R/V Melville (AGOR 14) on 9 July 1969.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: SCB Project No. 710.66
Displacement (tons): 1,520 light, 1,915 standard, 2,080 full
Dimensions (feet): 244.8' oa, 220' wl/pp x 46.3' e/wl x 15' max nav
Armament: none
Accommodations: 9 officers, 16 unlicensed, 25 scientists
Speed (kts.): 12 sustained
Propulsion (HP): 2,500
Machinery: Diesel, 2 cycloidal propellers

14MELVILLE30 Sep 1966Defoe12 Jul 196710 Jul 196827 Aug 1969
15KNORR30 Sep 1966Defoe9 Aug 196721 Aug 196814 Jan 1970

AGORNameTInactStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
14MELVILLEDECOM24 Oct 201412 Jan 2016Trf--
15KNORRDECOM31 Dec 201412 Nov 2015Trf--
19unnamed----24 Feb 1969Canc.--
20unnamed----24 Feb 1969Canc.--

Class Notes:
On 16 February 1965 the DCNO for fleet operations and readiness submitted to CNO a point paper covering the mission, concept of operations, and construction program for the FY 1966 AGOR. It noted that there was a total of 15 AGORs built, building, and programmed (AGOR 1-15) including two (AGOR 14-15) programmed for FY 1966 and one operated by NATO. Seven AGORs were being operated by Naval laboratories in applied ASW and Polaris-related oceanographic and acoustical research in such fields as sound velocity, sound transmission, and various surveillance system projects. Seven other AGORs were being used by contract laboratories or private institutions to contuct basic research in concert with ONR in support of long range requirements focused on new miliary applications, particularly in undersea warfare. Flexibility and growth was designed into the FY 1966 ships to meet the changing oceanographic requirements anticipated in the next ten years. Approved characteristics for an Oceanographic Research Ship (T-AGOR), SCB Project No. 710.66, were promulgated on 2 April 1965.

The Navy's publicity pamphlet for the FY 1966 program, dated 15 June 1965, stated that the two FY 1966 ships were redesigned ships from those approved and programmed in FY 1965 and previous. The redesign had become necessary because the techniques, instruments and ancillary tools used in oceanographic research had changed. Research tools such as the Floating Instrument Platform and Deep Research Vehicles were becoming available and the ships had to be able to handle these new tools.

An early preliminary design for SCB 710.66 resembled AGOR 12 (SCB 710.65) in its dimensions of 210' oa x 41' x 15' and conventional propulsion with two screws aft. Its full load displacement of 1,530 tons was slightly more than that of AGOR 12, and it had a tower instead of a mast aft of the bridge with an enclosed crow's nest at the top and a separate stack behind it. The next preliminary design departed completely from the AGOR 12 model, with two cycloidal propellers (one forward and one aft) instead of the screws, the bridge and mast with radar and crow's nest near the stern, the length reduced to 200' oa (181' pp), the beam and draft increased to 44' and 17', and the displacement increased to 1,750 tons. A third preliminary design (marked both SCB 710.66 and 710.67) began to resemble the ships as built, in which the two cycloidal propellers were retained, the bridge was moved back amidships, and the dimensions and displacement were much increased to 239' ox x 46' x 15.25' for 1,966 tons. This design was then refined by M. Rosenblatt & Son, Inc, probably as design agent. Their drawing of AGOR 14 dated 10 January 1966 and a similar model essentially show the ships as built. They included the tower and crow's nest from the first design but the stack was partly integrated into it (this integration was completed in the ships as built). As parts of the national academic research fleet, MELVILLE and KNORR were commonly referred to as research vessels (R/V), not U.S. Naval Ships (USNS).

As of November 1966 the Navy's request for FY 1968 contained 92 ships including two AGOR's (19-20) that together cost $14.0 million. They were listed as SCB 710.68 in the FY 1968 program pamphlet but may later have become 732.68. They survived a proposed cut to 40 ships but the expenditure on them was reduced to $12 million and ultimately they were not built.

Approaching the end of an expected useful life of 30 years, KNORR and MELVILLE underwent a service life extension conversion (KNORR in 1989-1991 and MELVILLE in 1992) to give them 15 additional years of service. In addition, according to Woods Hole, "the KNORR/MELVILLE conversions were prompted by poor reliability of the ships due to propulsion plant design. Both were experiencing ten months mean time between drydockings. In addition, they were too noisy for acoustic operations, an essential element of oceanographic research, and too small and lacked the seakeeping qualities to accommodate large science parties for long periods to carry out the global scale programs then being contemplated." Both were converted at the McDermott Shipyard, Amelia, Louisiana where they were cut vertically in half, and ten meters of bottom, topside, decks, and houses were inserted. The hull was lengthened from 246 ft to 279 feet, increasing the displacement to 2,670 tons (full load). They were also converted from direct-drive cycloidal to quieter, more reliable diesel electric engines with two azimuthing Z-drive stern thrusters and a retractable bow thruster.

KNORR was joined at Woods Hole in 1997 by the new R/V ATLANTIS (AGOR 25). She was replaced in 2015 at Woods Hole by the new R/V NEIL ARMSTRONG (AGOR 27) and was transferred to Mexico. MELVILLE was joined at Scripps in 1996 by the new R/V ROGER REVELLE (AGOR 24). In September 2014 MELVILLE reached the end of her life cycle extension, and after 45 years of service the White House confirmed on 17 November 2015 that MELVILLE and USCGC BOUTWELL (WHEC-719) would be transferred to the Philippine Navy as Excess Defense Articles (EDAs). On 29 April 2016 at a ceremony held in San Diego, California, MELVILLE was formally turned over to and commissioned in the Philippine Navy as GREGORIO VELASQUEZ (AGR 702), its first oceanographic research vessel. She was replaced at Scripps in 2016 by the new R/V SALLY RIDE (AGOR 28). KNORR .

Ship Notes:
14MELVILLEFY 1966. Loaned to Scripps Institute of Oceanography for ONR projects. To Philippines 2016 as GREGORIO VELASQUEZ (AGR 702). In service 2022.
15KNORRFY 1966. Loaned to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for ONR projects. To Mexico 2015 as RÍO TECOLUTLA (BI 08). Based at Manzanillo 2022.
19unnamedFY 1968.
20unnamedFY 1968.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 19 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021