I note that the US Navy's newest Missile Range Instrumentation Ship, the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen, has just been fitted with its radar aerials.
The ship will replace the 1950's-vintage USNS Observation Island with its early-1980's-vintage Cobra Judy radar system.
You can find a series of pictures of other, older US Navy tracking ships here.
The US Navy usually describes these ships as being used to monitor test firings of US missiles. However, it's noteworthy that the new ship is named for a seminal figure in the history of electronic warfare. As Nation2Nation reports:
In a career that spanned 33 years at the Washington, D.C., based Naval Research Laboratory, Howard Otto Lorenzen developed the distinction as the “Father of Electronic Warfare” for his development of radio countermeasures that could exploit detected or interrupted electromagnetic transmissions for military purposes, intelligence gathering and electronic countermeasures — a pioneering concept that was the genesis of modern day electronic warfare.
“Lorenzen understood and the Navy realized the value and relevance of not only detecting enemy radio and electronic transmissions, but that recording, analyzing and deciphering these transmissions and developing intuitive countermeasures would prove to be an integral and vital function to the future of national security,” said Pete Wilhelm, Director, NRL Naval Center for Space Technology.
There's more at the link, including details of many of Mr. Lorenson's activities and achievements.
I somehow suspect that a mere 'missile tracking ship' would not be named for someone so famous in the electronic warfare field. I have, shall we say, a certain amount of experience in that field myself . . . so I'm willing to bet that a radar system this powerful (particularly with such large active electronically scanned array [AESA] antennas) is useful for a whole lot more than merely tracking our own missile tests! There's also likely to be plenty of room for more electronics aboard a 14,000-ton hull.
I note that other nations who've operated such 'tracking ships' are much less euphemistic about how they use them. The former Soviet Union went so far as to build one of its tracking ships, the Ural, using the hull of a nuclear-powered Kirov class battlecruiser, and referred to it explicitly as a 'command ship'.
One suspects that, although we probably won't hear much about her in the news media, USNS Howard O. Lorenzen is about to embark on a career that would make her namesake smile nostalgically . . .