Tracking ship

Missile Range instrumentation Ship USNS Range Sentinel
U.S. Army tracking ship (1958-1964) USAS American Mariner docked at Chaguaramus, Trinidad
Timber Hitch being supplied with additional fresh water from USAS American Mariner, December 1961.

Missile Range Instrumentation Ships, Range Ships, or Tracking Ships, are ships 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 Ships 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.

There are currently only two active Instrumentation Ships in the US Navy inventory: USNS Observation Island (T-AGM-23) and USNS Invincible (T-AGM-24).[1] USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25)[2] is due to be delivered in 2010 and is slated to replace USNS Observation Island.[3]


Missile range instrumentation ships

Chinese Navy

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

  • Yuanwang class
    • Yuanwang 1 1977-present
    • Yuanwang 2 1978-present
    • Yuanwang 3 1995-present
    • Yuanwang 4 1999-present
    • Yuanwang 5 2007-present
    • Yuanwang 6 2007-present

French Navy

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


  • Henri Poincaré (A603) 1964-1990?[4] - ex-Italian oil tanker


Russian Navy/Soviet Navy

Kosmonaut Yuri Gagarin underway, 1986.

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

United States Navy/United States Air Force

USNS Vanguard underway.

Most of the USN and USAF tracking ships were converted into their role. Some ships were in service with NASA.




See also


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