BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- The Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) departed her homeport in Bremerton, Wash., for a weeklong phase of sea trials Dec. 12 after spending more than 11 months receiving extensive equipment and technology upgrades during a scheduled Docked Phased Incremental Availability (DPIA) at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) here.
During the shipyard and dry-dock availability, Stennis received a complete hull restoration above and below the waterline, as well as a complete refurbishment of the shafts, rudders and screws. Many on-board flight, operational and weapons systems were upgraded, including the Capstone self-defense system, new damage control and digital helm technology.
"It was important to test the new equipment we have on board and some of the old equipment we haven't used in over a year," said Capt. David Buss, Stennis' commanding officer. "These sea trials gave the crew an opportunity to train and assess where we are."
"Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (IMF) personnel conducted over 600,000 man-days of production work on this overhaul," said Dave McPherson, PSNS & IMF project superintendent for Stennis. "It is one of the largest aircraft carrier Docking Phased Incremental Availabilities ever accomplished."
According to McPherson, maintenance and modernization work covered almost every area of the ship, including the aircraft launch and recovery systems, habitability and preservation of the entire exterior of the ship's hull.
"One of the most significant of the entire exterior of the ship was in the combat systems arena. A group of systems called Capstone were installed that provides the ship with a significantly enhanced self-defense system," McPherson said. "In order to support the new Capstone radar and antennae packages, the ship's mast was replaced with a larger, stronger one, built and installed by personnel at PSNS and IMF," he explained.
Extensive testing and evaluation of the maintenance and modernization work was completed during the weeklong sea trial, including full power runs ahead and astern, and maximum-rudder turns.
"It was an incredible effort by the men and women working on Stennis to get the ship out of dry dock early," said Capt. Dan Peters, commander of PSNS and IMF. "The high level of expertise, dedication and professionalism that our work force, ship's force and the project team demonstrated resulted in getting this magnificent ship back to sea."
The upgrade in technology is just one facet of the changes on Stennis. Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn took command of Carrier Strike Group 3 and the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group Nov. 16, making Stennis his flagship.
As the overall commander, Quinn commands the entire strike group, composed of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, up to five surface ships, one submarine and up to eight aviation squadrons, all equipped and trained to forward deploy on short notice, providing a deterrent against aggression as well as protection of vital U.S. interests anywhere in the world.
"This is the dream job for every line officer in the United States Navy," said Quinn. "This is a spectacular ship. The Sailors are excited and the spaces look amazing. I can't help but be impressed," he said.
Stennis is scheduled to continue sea trials this winter. The ship will resume air operations and be joined by the other ships of the strike group to continue training in preparation for upcoming deployments. Officials hope to have Stennis ready for emergency surge operations by next summer.
"I am very proud of our Stennis shipmates because they've done such a good job at maintaining this ship. I would argue that with the new modernization package we received on board, we are the most capable carrier in the fleet," Buss said.
Stennis began its shipyard availability in January 2005 after a successful five-month deployment to the northern and western Pacific Ocean in 2004 and a change of homeport from San Diego.
For related news, visit the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn74 or visit the ship's Web page at www.CVN74.navy.mil.