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The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Battle Group and the USS Saipan Amphibious Ready Group returned to their East Coast homeports and bases Dec. 9 and 10. The ships and squadrons have spent the last six months operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea and the Arabian Gulf.


During the deployment, Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and other battle group units participated in Operation Deliberate Forge in the Adriatic Sea, adding the carrier's formidable air wing to NATO's air presence over Kosovo.

In October, the carrier sailed through the Suez Canal, and arrived in the Arabian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq. Battle group and amphibious ready group ships also participated in a number of exercises with allied Sailors and Marines, and visited ports from Spain to the United Arab Emirates.

USS Eisenhower's two nuclear reactors will give her virtually unlimited range and endurance and a top speed in excess of 30 knots. The ship's four catapults and four arresting gear engines enable her to launch and recover aircraft rapidly and simultaneously. The ship carries approximately 3 million gallons of fuel for her aircraft and escorts, and enough weapons and stores for extended operations without replenishment. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower also has extensive repair capabilities, including a fully equipped Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, a micro-miniature electronics repair shop, and numerous ship repair shops. The ship normally operates as the centrepiece of a carrier battle group commanded by a flag officer embarked in USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and consisting of 4 to 9 other ships.

Modern US Navy Aircraft Carriers are magnificent ships, capable of many different types of warfare. They can deliver tremendous amounts of ordnance on targets far beyond the range of any guns.

Self Defense / ASW Weapons

Embarking around 75 aircraft, The CVN 69 is composed of 10 squadrons including 3 fighter units (see table). For its self-defence, she is equipped of the NATO Sea Sparrow. This weapon is an adaptation of the Sparrow anti-aircraft missile and is employed as an anti-ship missile defense system. The missile is fired from an eight-tube box Mk 29 launcher. The 450-pound self-propelled rocket carries approximately 90 pounds of explosives and can fly more than ten miles.

Also equipped with the Phalanx CIWS (CLOSE-IN WEAPONS SYSTEM), this Gatling-gun is used for attacking and defeating anti-ship missiles. CIWS are totally integrated weapons system that is used on most Navy ships.

Tracking and defending against submarines is a task that requires Sailors to be alert and focused. On IKE, the Undersea Warfare Module takes care of this task in order to track, plot and defend against all underwater threats. Their mission includes defending the ship against submarines, search and rescue coordination, and in-flight support to helicopters and S-3 Vikings for submarine tracking.

When they are actively searching for a submarine, the S-3 Vikings circle around the battle group and deploy sonobouys which contain a sonar-emitting device. They hit the water and start searching. The data collected from them are recorded in the S-3 for later use. When the tapes return, a high-speed reel-to-reel player is used to search for sounds that match known profiles for enemy and friendly submarines. Even with today's technology, the Sailors sometimes have to do it the old-fashioned way by using a pair of headphones and listening.

It's difficult sometimes to differentiate between certain sounds. To make the task easier, the ASW specialists use a spectrum analyzer to display the sub's noise signature. They can tell what type of sub it is, how may propellers it has and how fast it's going.

Using data collected from acoustic tapes and from other battle group ships, the division of 12 Sailors track the contacts and plot the courses. This keeps the Tactical Actions Officer and the battle group informed of what's lurking under the water.
Once a submarine threat is located, the battle group takes action by launching VS-30's S-3B Vikings and HS-15's SH-60F Seahawks equipped with Mk 46 torpedoes, to get the job done. The ship is also fully capable of defense against torpedoes thanks to its active defense system NIXIE ; a towed acoustic decoy that sends torpedoes off track. The NIXIE Team, can lower the decoy from four different winches located on the fantail. The decoy is strung behind the ship about 1,500 ft. The noise signal it emits confuses the torpedo and leads it to believe it's hitting the ship.

Fight deck and operations

Each team member is fully proficient with their individual task, as on the flight deck there is no room for error. It is the most dangerous area of the ship because space is very limited and within these confines there are whirling propellers, the suction from jet intakes, the blast from jet exhausts, plus other hazards including the movement of tow tractors, aircraft launching and recovering, as well as the arresting wires to trip up the unwary. Not surprisingly security instructions are rigidly enforced. Crewmen acknowledge that at every level of flight operations safety is a way of life.

The flight deck crew wear different colored over shirts to denote their varied tasks as the noisy working environment renders speech almost impossible. (see table )
Arresting gear is designed to stop all fixed-wing aircraft which travel at approximately 160 mph when they come in. The four wires are used on a daily basis, but the barricade is used only when an aircraft has mechanical problems, or it doesn’t have enough fuel to make a second pass if it misses the wire. In case of emergency, a 20-foot high barricade can be erected within minutes. The barricade is made of nylon webbing, a material designed to hold the aircraft while causing minimal damage to it.

During normal flight operations, aircraft are recovered every 25 to 30 seconds. Everyone involved has a specific job. The Sailors of the arresting gear crew spend the majority of every day in the engine rooms and on the flight deck. They operate as a single crew. There are no split shifts, and the entire work centre stays on station for the duration of flight operations.

An engine operator’s main responsibility is adjusting the weight settings on the Constant Run-out Valve (CRO valve). Each aircraft requires a certain amount of tension to catch it, hold it and prevent it from going over the side. The valve can be set anywhere from 12,000 pounds for a training aircraft to 54,000 pounds for an F-14 Tomcat. If the arresting gear engine is improperly set, the wire could break, resulting in an aircraft being lost at sea.

Once an aircraft is trapped, the hook runner gives the signal to the deck edge operator to retract the wire. The deck edge operator depresses the retracting lever, and as the next aircraft comes across the Flight Deck, tailhook down, the tailhook catches the wire, stopping the aircraft.
When the aircraft hits the deck and hooks on the wire, the damper receives the initial impact that is used as a shock absorber. Working on the flight deck is one of the hardest jobs. The hours are incredibly long. They man-up 30 minutes before launch, stay on station during flight operations, and remain for many hours afterward for maintenance. The flight deck teams constantly maintain the arresting gear and do about 64 preventative maintenance checks per week per wire and the barricade.

There are not enough people for them to work in shifts so they stay until the work is done. They do it and they do it well. In four-month 7,000 mishap-free arrests has been logged since the deployment began in June. Normally, an aircraft carrier averages 7, 000 traps for the entire deployment. A trap is counted every time an aircraft’s tail hook catches one of the four wires stretched across the aft section of the Flight Deck. It takes a lot of work, sometimes as much as 20 hours a day to reach that number of traps. That’s recovering more than 100 aircraft a day

Night flight operations are very spectacular. In almost total darkness, aviation tractors are zipping by; aircraft are taxiing and turning up; and ordnance is being moved. Refueling planes at night is a dangerous job and requires total attention to detail and safety.

The young Sailors who work on the flight deck have a physically demanding job. For every plane that comes in, the fueler must drag a bulky hose across the deck to the aircraft. During an average day, some 140 to 150 ‘birds’ may need fuel.


Landing Safety Officer (LSO)

LSOs generally fall in two categories aboard the boat - squadron LSOs and the two or three CAG LSOs, none of which are qualified in all of the aircraft. They are chosen because they have usually proved to be better "ball flyers".

Squadron LSOs generally are the controlling LSO and the backup LSO with the CAG LSO overseeing everything and always has a radio and the final say on the platform. The CAG LSO is usually a second or third sea tour senior Lt or Lcdr who is probably qualified in one other aircraft other than the community he came from. Each squadron usually has three to four LSOs (excluding the helo guys). All the LSOs are divided into 3-5 teams which are responsible for all recoveries during that 24 hour period. The controlling LSO is generally responsible for glideslope, the backup LSO watches the HUD to monitor lineup, the writer records the pass and the CAG LSO monitors everything and usually only speaks up when they see something they don’t like or when things get ugly.


A controlling LSO generally only talk if conditions are out of the ordinary and the pilots need to know something or if there are deviations from the glideslope or lineup that are not being corrected in a timely manner.
Landing a high-performance aircraft aboard a moving target is a tricky process. It is amazing that these pilots are able to do it so consistently. An aircraft carrier, a huge ship is, nevertheless a small target out in the middle of the ocean. Add to that the fact that it could be rocking and rolling in a heavy sea. The landing process is a highly refined art. There are a few key people and equipment which are essential to a safe landing aboard ship.

First is, of course, the pilot who must make the right corrections to his flight path to bring his aircraft in safely. The pilot is also responsible for making sure the aircraft is ready to land (wheels down, tailhook down, etc). The second key person is the Landing Safety Officer (LSO).
The LSO also is responsible for making certain that the flight deck is ready to receive incoming aircraft (the last aircraft that landed has taxied clear of the arresting gear, personnel are out of the way, the arresting gear is in position to receive the incoming aircraft, etc.).

The equipment necessary includes the arresting gear, a series of 4 thick steel cables stretched across the aft end of the flight deck with braking equipment below. The Mirror Landing System is an integral part of the landing process. The MLS is a device situated on the port (left) side of the flight deck that the pilot looks at while landing. This device, containing a light focused on a mirror, (called "The Ball") tells the pilot if he is on glide slope for landing. Between the MLS and the LSO, a pilot can be assured of a safe landing.

Modern combat aircraft have very high stall speeds (the speed at which the wings cease to provide lift) which means that these planes land at necessarily high speed. Add to that Navy pilots land the aircraft to full power the instant the aircraft hits the deck. That way, if a pilot misses all 4 arresting wires (called a Bolter), the aircraft has enough power to fly off the angled portion of the flight deck and come around for another try.

While landing, the pilot literally slams the aircraft down on the flight deck (controlled crash). The aim is to catch the Number 3 arresting wire. All landings are graded and the results posted for all the aircrews to see. If the pilot required minimal correction on his way in and caught the number 3 wire, the landing is called an OK-3 by the LSO. Naval aircraft must have extremely tough landing gear due to the high stresses placed upon them in carrier landings.
Night carrier landing is one of the most intense things a person can do. These pilots are able to do it safely in nearly any weather conditions, at night, with battle damage or, in the past, when wounded. That’s probably why Naval aviators are considered as the best pilots in the world.



Appareils et unités embarquées sur l’USS Eisenhower

CVW-17, code de dérive 'AA'
Appareil QT Modex

VF-103 Sluggers

VFA-34 Blue Blasters
VFA-83 Rampagers
VFA-81 Sunliners
VAW-125 Tigertails

HS-15 Red Lions
VAQ-132 Scorpions

VS-30 Diamondcutters

VQ-6 Black Ravens 

VRC-40 Rawhides

F-14B Tomcat 10 / 100+ ( 4 TARPS )  

F/A-18C Hornet 12 / 200+
F/A-18C Hornet 12 / 300+
F/A-18C Hornet 12 / 400+

E-2C Hawkeye 4 / 600+
SH-60F / HH-60H 8 / 610+

EA-6B Prowler 5 / 620+

S-3B Viking 6/ 700+

ES-3A 2/ 760+

C-2A Greyhound 2/ * 40+

Fighter Squadron (équipé de pod LANTIRN) 

StrikeFighter Squadron
StrikeFighter Squadron StrikeFighter Squadron

Carrier Early Warning Sq.
Helicopter Sq. ASW/ Rescue

Tactical Electronics Warfare
Sea control Squadron / ASW

Fleet Air Reconnaissance Sq.

Fleet Logistics Support Sq.

PS : quantities (QT) vary with deployments. C-2A are most of time
based at Sigonella in Italy but can be detached in other Allies countries
around the Carrier group location.


Aviation Fuels [nickname: "Grapes"]



Plane Handlers, Aircraft elevator Operators, Tractor Drivers, Messengers and Phone Talkers




Catapult and arresting gear crews, Air wing maintenance personnel, Air wing quality control personnel, Cargo-handling personnel, Ground Support Equipment (GSE) troubleshooters, Hook runners, Photographer's Mates, Helicopter landing signal enlisted personnel (LSE)



Aircraft handling officers, Catapult and Arresting Gear Officers, Plane directors



Ordnancemen, Crash and Salvage Crews, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)



Air wing plane captains, Air wing line leading petty officers



Squadron plane inspectors , Landing Signal Officer (LSO) , Air Transfer Officers (ATO), Liquid Oxygen (LOX) crews, Safety Observers , Medical personnel


Authors want to thank very much Maitre DOOM from the US Embassy at Paris who made this reporting possible. Many thanks to the Uss Esenhower PAO and VAW-125 aircrew who hosted me during these 3 days, especially to the «Skipper» , Lt Mike Neuser for his kind assistance during the whole visit.

Reporting from Philippe and François NÔTRE
Sources : USNavy / PAO USS Eisenhower
Cockpit Image - Photos: François NÔTRE