USNS Relentless (T-AGOS-18)

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Ex-USNS Relentless (T-AGOS-18), the future NOAAS Gordon Gunter(R 336)
Ex-USNS Relentless (T-AGOS-18), moored at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pier in Norfolk, Virginia, on 4 July 1993, after she was stricken by the U.S. Navy but prior to her commissioning as the NOAA fisheries research ship NOAAS Gordon Gunter (R 336).
United States
Name: USNS Relentless (T-AGOS-18)
Namesake: Relentless: Unyielding in severity; unremitting, steady, and persistent
Operator: Military Sealift Command
Awarded: 20 February 1987
Builder: VT Halter Marine, Inc., Moss Point, Mississippi
Laid down: 22 April 1988
Launched: 12 May 1989
In service: 12 January 1990
Out of service: 17 March 1993
Struck: 20 May 1993
Fate: Transferred to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 17 March 1993
= NOAA Flag.svgUnited States
Name: NOAAS Gordon Gunter (R 336)
Namesake: Dr. Gordon Gunter (1909–1998), American marine biologist and fisheries scientist who pioneered marine research and education in the northern Gulf of Mexico
Acquired: 17 March 1993
Commissioned: 28 August 1998
Homeport: Pascagoula, Mississippi
Status: Active in NOAA Atlantic Fleet
General characteristics (as U.S. Navy ocean surveillance ship)
Class and type: Stalwart-class ocean surveillance ship
Displacement: 1,565 tons (light) 2,535 tons (full)
Length: 224 ft (68 m)
Beam: 43 ft (13 m)
Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, two shafts, 1,600 hp (1,193 kW)
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Complement: 33 (15 U.S. Navy personnel and 18 civilians)
General characteristics (as NOAA oceanographic research ship)
Class and type: ex-Stalwart-class fisheries research ship
Displacement: 2,323 tons
Length: 224 ft (68 m)
Beam: 43 ft (13 m)
Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, two shafts, 1,600 hp (1,193 kW)
  • 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) (emergency)
  • 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) (cruising)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
one 18-foot (5.5-m) RHIB
Complement: 20 (6 NOAA Corps officers, 3 licensed engineers, and 11 other crew members), plus up to 15 scientists

USNS Relentless (T-AGOS-18) was a Stalwart-class modified tactical auxiliary general ocean surveillance ship in service in the United States Navy from 1990 to 1993. Since 1998, she has been in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fleet as the fisheries research ship NOAAS Gordon Gunter (R 336).


The U.S. Navy ordered Relentless from VT Halter Marine, Inc., on 20 February 1987. VT Halter Marine laid her down at Moss Point, Mississippi, on 22 April 1988, launched her on 12 May 1989, and delivered her to the U.S. Navy on 12 January 1990.[1][2]

United States Navy service[edit]

On the day of her delivery, the U.S. Navy placed the ship in non-commissioned service in the Military Sealift Command as USNS Relentless (T-AGOS-18). Like the other Stalwart-class ships, she was designed to collect underwater acoustical data in support of Cold War anti-submarine warfare operations against Soviet Navy submarines using Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) sonar equipment. She operated with a mixed crew of U.S. Navy personnel and civilian merchant mariners.[1]

After the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in late December 1991, the requirement for SURTASS collection declined. The Navy took Relentless out of service on 17 March 1993 and transferred her to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the same day. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 20 May 1993.[1][2]

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration service[edit]

NOAAS Gordon Gunter (R 336)

NOAA converted the ship into a fisheries research ship and commissioned her into NOAA service as NOAAS Gordon Gunter (R 336) on 28 August 1998.[1][3][4][5] She replaced the decommissioned NOAA fisheries research ship NOAAS Chapman (R 446).[6]


Gordon Gunter is outfitted for fishing operations employing stern trawling, longlining, plankton tows, dredging, and trap fishing. She is fitted with modern navigation electronics and oceanographic winches, as well as sophisticated sensors and sampling equipment which her crew and embarked scientists use to monitor the atmospheric and oceanic environment, such as a thermosalinograph, a conductivity-temperature-depth instrument (CTD), a fluorometer, and NOAA's Scientific Computer System. Gordon Gunter has a marine mammal observation and survey station located on top of her pilot house and, as an acoustically quieted research vessel, serves as an excellent platform for the study and observation of marine mammals.[2][4][5]

Gordon Gunter has 1,229.5 square feet (sq. ft.) (114.2 square meters) (m²) of mission-dedicated laboratory spaces, including a 360-sq.-ft. (33.4-m²) dry laboratory, a 429-sq.-ft. (39.9-m²) wet laboratory, and a 135-sq.-ft. (12.5-m²) wet laboratory. On deck, she has two hydraulic trawl winches, each with a capacity of 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) of ⅝-inch (15-9-mm) or 1,800 meters (5,905 feet) of ¾-inch (19-mm) wire, an electric CTD winch with a capacity of 10,000 meters (32,808 feet) of .322" (8.2-mm) electromechanical cable, and an electric winch with a capacity of 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) of .322" (8.2-mm) electromechanical cable [5] She has two 45-foot (13.7-meter) telescoping booms – one with a lifting capacity of 3,500 pounds (1,588 kg) at an extension of 16.3 feet (5.0 meters) and the other with a lifting capacity of 18,000 pounds (8,165 kg) – as well as a movable A-frame with a lifting capacity of 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg), and a movable J-frame with a maximum lifting capacity of 3,500 pounds (1,588 kg).[5]

Gordon Gunter has an ice-strengthened steel hull. She normally carries one 18-foot (5.5-meter) rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) with a 90-horsepower (67-kilowatt) motor and a maximum capacity of four persons.[5]

In addition to her crew of 20, Gordon Gunter can accommodate up to 15 scientists.[5]

Service history[edit]

From her home port at Pascagoula, Mississippi, Gordon Gunter operates throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea. A multi-use platform, she primarily serves NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service Pascagoula Laboratory in Moss Point, Mississippi. She conducts scientific surveys of the health and abundance of adult and larval commercial and recreational fish, the health and distribution of marine mammals, oceanographic studies, and habitat investigations.[4][5]

Gordon Gunter's first international project, the Windwards Humpback Cruise, took place in the Caribbean Sea. The primary objective of the cruise was to obtain scientific information on humpback whales that was used in a comprehensive assessment by the International Whaling Commission in June 2001, and to support U.S. management requirements for these endangered whales under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Scientists aboard Gordon Gunter used both visual and acoustic techniques to locate humpback whales and other marine mammal species and located many whales by tracking their songs with sonar buoys.[4]

Gordon Gunter supported the Sustainable Seas Expeditions – a five-year project of NOAA, the National Marine Sanctuaries Program and the National Geographic Society carried out between 1998 and 2002 – at several United States national marine sanctuaries. The project featured underwater exploration of the sanctuaries with manned submersible units.[4]

Gordon Gunter has demonstrated mission flexibility through her ability to undergo quick reconfiguration. On one occasion, her after working deck was reconfigured to deploy a weather buoy about 160 miles (255 km) off the Louisiana coast. This mission helped fill a critical data gap in weather information that commercial fishermen, the petroleum industry, and recreational boaters rely upon heavily.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d "T-AGOS-18 Relentless". NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Marine Operations. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Dr. Gordon Gunter". NOAA Marine Operations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Office of Air and Marine. "NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter Ship Characteristics General Information
  6. ^ Anonymous, "NOAA Commissions New Fisheries Ship in Pascagoula; Honors Gulf Scientist," NOAA Report, Vol. VII, No. 9, September 1998, p. 2.

External links[edit]