MSC Deactivates USNS John McDonnell

Friday, August 27, 2010

Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS John McDonnell was delivered to the Navy Inactive Ships Program in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for deactivation Aug. 25.

Following the deactivation, MSC retains six Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ships capable of surveying coastal regions and performing full ocean surveys. Construction of a new, more-capable survey ship, T-AGS 66, will start in October.

McDonnell's deactivation comes as part of the effort to streamline survey operations. Unlike the Pathfinder class, which is capable of conducting both deep- and shallow-water scans, McDonnell was only equipped with the sensors to conduct shallow-water surveys.

"McDonnell carried two 34-foot hydrographic survey launches fitted with sensors operating on frequencies best suited for mapping the seabed in shallow waters," said Rusty Bishop, technical director of MSC's Special Mission Program, which operates the ships. "Pathfinder-class ships can be reconfigured to perform a variety of survey missions, including the ability to launch and recover the hydrographic survey launches. McDonnell's launches will be added to the available pool."

Since late 1991, the 208-ft McDonnell has traveled the world in support of the Naval Oceanographic Office with a complement of about 23 civilian mariners and 14 NAVOCEANO surveyors. It has surveyed the territorial waters of 10 countries, in addition to other large bodies of water including the shallow areas of the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and Caribbean Sea. The ship has also been host to numerous dignitaries and international partners.

During its years of service, McDonnell has collected hundreds of thousands of nautical miles worth of data, and has charted and verified thousands of navigation hazards.

McDonnell has also risen to emergent tasking on several occasions. Using its side scan sonar, it located two downed F-16s in the Northern Arabian Gulf in 1993 and the wreckage of a Navy helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz in 1994. Two years later, it located a crashed F-14 in the Central Arabian Gulf.

NAVOCEANO will host the family of the late Capt. John McDonnell, the ship's namesake, for a reception Sept. 23 at the Maury Oceanographic Library at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

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