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USNS Vandenberg – The Sinking Of A Cold War Relic

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 377
May 27, 2009

Spy Ship USNS Vandenburg

Earlier today the ship USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg, was sunk about 7 miles off the coast of Key West making it the world’s second-largest intentionally sunk artificial reef. The vessel was originally built during WWII for troop transport but wikipedia sheds light on her subsequent, more interesting, mission:

On 1 July 1964, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was acquired by the Navy and designated T-AGM-10, as a Missile Range Instrumentation Ship, one of ten such ships transferred from the Commander, Air Force Eastern Test Range, to MSTS. “Equipped with extremely accurate and discriminating radar and telemetry equipment,” she tracked and analyzed “re-entry bodies in the terminal phase of ballistic missile test flights,” carrying out those missile and spacecraft tracking duties in both Atlantic and Pacific waters until her retirement in 1983.[2] She was ultimately stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 29 April 1993.

In 1998, some scenes of the horror/sci-fi film Virus were filmed aboard the ex-General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. The ship substituted for a Russian vessel known as the Akademik Vladislav Volkov, and some of the Cyrillic lettering applied for the film is still visible on the hull today.

Today’s sinking of this historic cold war relic was caught on film by the team at Here is a preview of the event:

The vessel now sits in 140 feet of clear water and will serve to attract fish, divers and relieve recreational pressure on nearby natural reefs.  Officials expect it to generate up to $8 million in tourism-related revenue for Key West and the state of Florida. The following image will give you an impression of the vessels size:


The following vessel drawing sheds light on the various missile tracking systems found aboard the ship. Click on the photo for the full size image.


More photos of the ship can be found HERE and HERE but we have also attached additional video below.

USNS Vandenberg Video


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