WELCOME ON THE USS EISENHOWER
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.
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 )
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.
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.
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 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
Appareils et unités embarquées sur l’USS
PS : quantities (QT) vary with deployments. C-2A are most
based at Sigonella in Italy but can be detached in other Allies countries
around the Carrier group location.
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