The USNS WATERS was acquired for multi-purpose surveys, and became operational at the end of FY1996. Built for the Military Sealift Command (MSC) at a cost of $104.4 million, the Waters replaced the USNS Mizar (T-AGOR 11). Mizar was special-mission ocean survey / "ocean engineering" ship which undertook a variety of covert "ocean engineering" missions in support of surveillance operations and the recovery of sunken hardware of interest to the intelligence community. Funding for that Waters's operations was reduced soon after her completion, and the ships was been converted to support additional missile range instrumentation and submarine navigation research support missions.
View in Google Earth Categories: Sea - Misc, Covert
Links: www.globalsecurity.org
By: Pdunn

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kjfitz picture
@ 2006-09-14 22:11:16
I've been looking into this one since yesterday. I think that it is actually an awning around the ship. Notice the small radomes? I think this may be some kind of SIGINT or command ship and there may be some below the waterline things they prefer to keep under cover.
kjfitz picture
@ 2006-09-14 22:35:19
Bingo. Yup, this ship does "covert 'ocean engineering' missions in support of surveillance operations and the recovery of sunken hardware of interest to the intelligence community."

i.e. there is definitely stuff below the water line they don't want you to see.
cthippo picture
@ 2010-09-01 20:27:17
It's also normal to wrap portions of the vessel when it is undergoing maintenance to prevent damage to sensitive equipment. I've seen them wrap the antenna masts on Coast Guard buoy tenders (hardly the most secret of ships) while undergoing maintenance.