After more than half a century of service to the United States, missile range instrumentation ship USNS Observation Island (T-AGM 23), host platform for the Air Force COBRA JUDY radar system since 1982, inactivated March 25, 2014. Shortly thereafter, USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) began to tow ex-Observation Island on its final voyage to Beaumont, Texas. The following blog provides some of the ship’s history and perspectives from the Air Force Program Manager, Ed Hotz.
The reason I know about the golf ball ship is that we encountered it at sea, in the N.Pacific, I was third mate, we were on a MSC cable ship… It would have been over 30 years ago.
It was too far away to get the name. Our captain gave them a call on the VHF, they answered but wouldn’t give any info. Our captain recognized the golf ball ship’s captain’s voice and said, “Hey Frank is that you?”. After that they quit talking to us.
Might have been the Vandenberg, or 2 others I can’t remember the names of (Range Sentinel? Observation Island? Others from this list?). MSC had 3 of them, and each would deploy progressively further down range.
Wow, haven’t heard the name of that ship in quite some time. My Pop was a TMC on the Observation Island for many years. Brought it up from Canaveral to Norfolk in early 60’s to switch from Polaris to Posieden missles. His last ship I think was the “Agana” , stationed in Guam. He wrote home once when they were on the west coast test firing missles from Observation Island when the Ruskies would try to interfere recovering spent missles. After he retired, worked for a military contractor taking a few subs out of Groton testing firing control systems. He called it “Rotten Groton”.
I recall reading that the SBX had a “homeport” of sorts in Adak harbor, and that there was a fairly extensive mooring and subsea cable network installed up there to keep her tied down and powered up when she wasnt prowling around.
Don’t know what kind of ship Agana was. The family tranferred to Guam in early 70’s, I stayed in the states. Been aboard the Observation Island a few times in my early youth. Actually one of my first license instructors (Chuck) way back when at SIU/Piney Point sailed on it, remember him saying it was good duty and liked the ship. I liked the chocolate milk machines in the galley.
I do remember him not liking the ship (Agana) too much. Don’t know if that’s it or not. May have been sold off, perhaps explaining the blue paint. The picture Kennebec put up sure looks like the ship after MANY refits. … Been over 50 years since I saw it. Googled crew list, Pop wasn’t on that list (Didn’t submit Info) but the stories the members told I can relate to. The older pictures are more accurate what I remember than this latest picture of her. Original build 1953. Has an interesting history.
Some of these old USNS ships go on and on. I was surprised when told the Waters was still operating. Good job way back when.
Now the Navy is planning to decommission the first 4 LCS ships which are less than 7 years old. Why? Here’s what the Navy says, “Those four test ships were instrumental to wringing out the crewing, the maintenance and all the other things we needed to learn from them,” Crites told reporters. “But they’re not configured like the other LCS in the fleet, and they need significant upgrades. Everything from combat [systems], to structural, you name it. They’re expensive to upgrade.” So,1.5 billion dollars down the drain for an experiment. But Austal made a lot of money which of course was the point. The Australian owners of Austal should at least send everyone in the USA a thank you email.
Rarely did they operate at full on everything. ( Early LCS) without mega expenses to repair for doing so. Not confident in the later ones either. Make real ships, not star war crap for the kiddies that doesn’t work and a lot less per copy.