She was commissioned on 28 April 1973.
Leader of a new class of submarine rescue ships designed to operate with the Navy’s new deep submergence rescue vehicles, Pigeon was the first seagoing catamaran warship built for the Navy since Robert Fulton’s twin-hulled steam warship Fulton was built at the close of the War of 1812. Her twin hull gave great stability for deep water operations and provides ample deck working space. She was able to carry two deep submergence vehicles on her main deck. These craft was capable of docking to a disabled submarine on the sea bottom, removing survivors and transporting them to the surface. Pigeon also carried the McCann diving bell or rescue chamber which was used to rescue the survivors of submarine Squalus (SS-192) in 1939. Pigeon’s mooring system enabled her to maintain a precise position over a disabled submarine during rescue operations.
Pigeon’s rescue control center used a 3-dimensional sonar system for continuous tracking of the rescue vehicle. During rescue operations it served as a floating command post with specialized communications equipment for contacting the disabled submarine and any other craft, planes or ships working with her.