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USNS Harkness (AGS 32).
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Design: SCB Project Nos. 193, 708.65, 723.65, and 723.66 (large type)
Displacement (tons): 3,670
Dimensions (feet): 393' x 54' x 14'
Armament: none
Accommodations: 171 crew, 12 scientists
Speed (kts.): 15
Propulsion (HP): 3,100
Machinery: Geared diesel, 1 screw

29CHAUVENET19 Aug 1966Fairfield, Glasgow, UK24 May 196713 May 196813 Nov 1970
32HARKNESS19 Aug 1966Fairfield, Glasgow, UK30 Jun 196712 Jun 196829 Jan 1971

AGSNameTInactStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
29CHAUVENETT7 Nov 199230 Nov 199216 Feb 1994MA/T--
32HARKNESST15 Mar 199315 Mar 199316 Feb 1994MA/T15 Sep 2017

Class Notes:
In April 1959 a 3,440-ton, 292-foot surveying ship named SURVEYOR was launched for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic survey, prompting the Navy's R&D community to consider its need for a similar large surveying ship. At that time BUSHIPS was developing the the characteristics for the medium sized surveying ship (SCB 226) that ultimately became the AGS 26 class. A memo on the SCB 226 design dated 28 August 1961 prepared in the Preliminary Design section of BUSHIPS for the Assistant SECNAV (R&D) was highly critical of the SURVEYOR design for naval use but expressed interest in a new 3,300 ton design then under development by C&GS (although apparently not built). Unlike SURVEYOR it included scientific installations required for oceanographic studies with some features taken from BUSHIPS designs. The main reason for the larger size of the ship compared to SCB 226 was that it had three times as many crew accommodations, although it had fewer accommodations for scientists, making it highly inefficient for oceanographic operations as designed. Approved characteristics for a large Surveying Ship (AGS), SCB Project No. 193, were promulgated on 11 June 1959 and a 380-foot, 4,100 ton preliminary design was dated 9 May 1961 with a layout closely resembling the two SCB 723 ships as built. After completion of the 2,596-ton medium SCB 226 AGS design in mid-1962 the characteristics for the large AGS were updated as SCB 193 for FY 1964 on 30 April 1963 and as SCB Project No. 708.65 on 12 Feb 1964. The FY 1965 program brochure, dated 30 April 1964, described the FY 1965 ship as "a Fleet ship designed to conduct coastal hydrographic and oceanographic surveys, and also to act as a tender for smaller survey craft, helicopters, and Marine Corps survey teams. It has the capability for compiling and printing finished charts on the spot to meet Fleet and landing force requirements."

The FY 1965 and 1966 program brochures (the latter dated 15 June 1965) listed the two ships as SCB 708.65 and 708.66. The specifications were then updated as for a Surveying Ship (T-AGS), SCB Project Nos. 723.65 and 723.66, on 1 November 1965 with a single change on 7 June 1966. This followed a decision in late 1965 to procure some support ships (ultimately the AGS 29 and ATS 1 classes) in British yards while the British were to reciprocate by procuring some military goods in the U.S., the main initial candidate being the F-111 fighter aircraft. Subsequently there were difficulties in maintaining the ships of these two classes because of their foreign-manufactured components, a problem that MARAD later addressed by retaining HARKNESS as a source of spare parts when it loaned CHAUVENET in 1996 to the Texas Maritime Academy as a training ship. The Navy in 1966 also had to deal with the predictable political fallout.

Preliminary designs were prepared in 1966 or 1967 for a much larger AGS for FY 1968 in three variants, a 7,225 ton ship with a well deck, a 7,600 ton ship without the well deck, and an 8,500 ton catamaran, but no such ship was proceeded with. CHAUVENET and HARKNESS entered service a little over a year after the Navy's then-largest surveying ships, the converted World War II assault transports TANNER (AGS-15) and MAURY (AGS-16), were decommissioned and struck, TANNER on 1 Aug 1969 and MAURY on 19 Dec 1969. In August 1997 MARAD assigned the design designations S3-M-MA153a and b to ex-AGS 29 and 31, which it was then using for training purposes.
Ship Notes:
29CHAUVENETFY 1965. Delivered to the Commandant, First Naval District, at NSY Boston on 13 Nov 1970. To MSTS 5 Mar 1971. To MA custody in BRF 7 Nov 1992. Conversion to Texas Maritime Academy training ship TEXAS CLIPPER II to replace ex-EXCAMBION begun 1994, returned to BRF from conversion 2 Oct 1995 and renamed TEXAS CLIPPER II, custody of ship trf. by MA 25 May 1996 upon arrival at Galveston. Began conversion Mar 2006, renamed PACIFIC COLLECTOR 24 Aug 2006 as a mobile sensor platform operated by MA for the Missile Defense Agency to track both test interceptors and target missiles. Based at Portland, Ore, with PACIFIC TRACKER (ex BEAVER STATE, ACS 10).
32HARKNESSFY 1966. Delivered to the Commandant, First Naval District, at NSY Boston on 29 Jan 1971. To MSTS 30 Apr 1971. To MA custody in JRRF 29 Mar 1993 and renamed STATE OF MAINE Mar/Apr 1993. Conversion to training ship for the Maine Maritime Academy begun 1994 at the former Brooklyn Navy Yard but performance was unsatisfactory and the contract was terminated in 1995. The conversion was then abandoned when a more suitable vessel, ex-TANNER (AGS 40), became available. Retained in the NDRF as a source of spares for the British-built ex-CHAUVENET. Departed JRRF 8 Jan 2001 and arrived at SUNY Maritime 10 Jan 2001 as static training platform while EMPIRE STATE was on loan to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. After EMPIRE STATE returned from its MMA training cruise HARKNESS moved to MMA on 28 Feb 2001 to serve as static trainer there while SS CAPE BON was being prepared to serve as the school's seagoing training vessel (began refit 14 Jan 2001, later reassigned). Returned to JRRF 6 Jun 2001. Departed 19 Oct 2017 under recycling contract. BU complete 16 Feb 2018.

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