Tracking ship

Missile Range instrumentation Ship USNS Range Sentinel
U.S. Army tracking ship (1958-1964) USAS American Mariner docked at Chaguaramus, Trinidad
The Monge (A601) of the French Navy, 1999.
Timber Hitch being supplied with additional fresh water from USAS American Mariner, December 1961.
Kosmonavt Yuri Gagarin underway, 1986.
USNS Vanguard underway.

A tracking ship, also called a missile range instrumentation ships or range ships, is a ship equipped with antennas and electronics to support the launching and tracking of missiles and rockets. Since many missile ranges launch over ocean areas for safety reasons, the range ship extend the range of shore based tracking facilities.

In the United States the initial tracking ships were constructed by the US Army and then US Air Force to support their missile programs. They were generally built on a surplus Liberty ship or Victory ship hull. By 1964 the US Navy took over all the range ships and introduced more.

Missile range instrumentation ships

Chinese Navy

The Chinese ships were purpose built vessels for their role in the navy and the space program.

French Navy

The Poincaré was a converted tanker, but the Monge was a purpose built ship.



Russian Navy / Soviet Navy

The Soviet and later Russian ships were purpose built vessels for their role.

United States Navy/United States Air Force

There are currently only two active Instrumentation Ships in the US Navy inventory: USNS Invincible (T-AGM-24)[3] and USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25).[4] The latter was delivered in January 2012[5] to replace USNS Observation Island (T-AGM-23) in 2014.[6] Most of the USN and USAF tracking ships were converted into their role. Some ships were in service with NASA.



See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tracking ships.


  1., Poincare
  2., Monge
  3. "Military Sealift Command Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  4. "Range Instrumentation Ship Photo Index". Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  5. "Navy Accepts Delivery of USNS Howard O. Lorenzen". 12 January 2012. No. NNS120112-16. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  6. "SIU - Keel laid for future USNS Observation Island replacement (8/25)". Retrieved 2009-04-04.
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