USS Skywatcher (AGR-3)

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USS Skywatcher (YAGR-3).jpg
Union Navy Jack United States
Name: USS Skywatcher
Ordered: as a type (Z-EC2-S-C5) hull, MCE hull 2337
Builder: J. A. Jones Construction Co. Inc., Panama City, Florida
Laid down: as the Raphael R. Rivera, 30 November 1944
Launched: 16 January 1945
Sponsored by: Mrs. Evelyn Anderson
Acquired: by the U.S. Navy, 20 September 1954
Commissioned: 29 March 1955 as USS Skywatcher (YAGR-3) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia
Decommissioned: 29 March 1965
Reclassified: AGR-3, 28 September 1958
Refit: converted to a Radar picket ship at Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, South Carolina
Struck: 1 April 1965
Fate: sold for scrapping, 23 December 1970
General characteristics
Type: Guardian-class radar picket ship
Tons burthen: 7,360 tons
Length: 441'
Beam: 57'
Draft: 27'
Installed power: two Electric Generators
Propulsion: two 220 PSI boilers; one 3 cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engine; one 4 blade, 18' 6" propeller; Shaft Horsepower 2,500
Speed: 11 knots
Capacity: Fuel Oil, 443,646 gals; Diesel, 68,267 gals; Fresh Water, 15,082 gals; Ballast, 1,326,657 gals fresh water
Complement: 13 officers, 138 enlisted
Armament: two 3 in (76 mm) guns

USS Skywatcher (YAGR-3/AGR-3) was a Guardian-class radar picket ship acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1954. She was converted into a radar picket ship and assigned to radar picket duty in the North Atlantic Ocean as part of the Distant Early Warning Line.

Built in Panama City, Florida[edit]

The SS Rafael R Rivera (renamed later to the Skywatcher) was laid down on 30 November 1944 by the J. A. Jones Co., Panama City, Florida, as the Rafael R. Rivera (MC hull 2337), U.S. Maritime Administration type ZEC2C5; launched on 16 January 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Evelyn Anderson for the War Shipping Administration.

War Relief and Seacowboys[edit]

In 1946, after World War II, the Rafael R Rivera was converted to a livestock ship, also called a cowboy ship. From 1945 to 1947, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and the Brethren Service Committee of the Church of the Brethren sent livestock to war-torn countries. These "seagoing cowboys" made about 360 trips on 73 different ships. The Heifers for Relief project was started by the Church of the Brethren in 1942; in 1953, this became Heifer International.[1] The SS Rafael R Rivera was one of these ships, known as cowboy ships, as she moved livestock across the Atlantic Ocean. Rafael R Rivera moved horses, heifers, and mules, as well as a some chicks, rabbits, and goats.[2][3][4]

US Navy[edit]

The Rafael R Rivera was acquired by the US Navy on 20 September 1954; renamed USS Skywatcher (YAGR-3) and commissioned on 29 March 1955, with Lt. Cdr. John Anto in command.

Radar patrol duty[edit]

Skywatcher was operated by the States Marine Corporation as Rafael R. Rivera. She was acquired by the Navy and converted at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Norfolk, Virginia, into an ocean station radar ship. In July 1955, she assumed her first duties in the Contiguous Radar Coverage System of the United States while operating out of Newport, Rhode Island.

In September 1958, the ship's designation was changed from YAGR-3 to radar picket ship AGR-3. Her home port was changed to Davisville, Rhode Island, and she operated from there until early 1965 with Radar Picket Squadron 2, spending over 50 percent of her time on her assigned picket station.


In March 1965, Skywatcher was placed in reserve, out of commission, and struck from the Navy List on 1 April. She was sold on 23 December 1970 to Daewood Corp., Ltd., of Karachi, Pakistan. She was resold again for scrapping in December 1971, and arrived at Santander, Germany to be scrapped.

See also[edit]