BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- The Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) returned to homeport in Bremerton, Wash., Dec. 17 after completing the first weeklong phase of sea trials.
The ship spent more than 11 months receiving extensive equipment and technology upgrades during a scheduled Docked Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), which began in January.
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 state-of-the-art digital helm technology.
Sea trials began Dec. 12, and focused on testing newly installed technology and restored components.
"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."
The new digital Steer Control Console (SCC) integrates all of the mechanical features of the older helm/lee helm onto a set of graphic user interface computer consoles. The system is already in use on other aircraft carriers and is a significant improvement over the previous analog helm/lee helm system.
"The entire helm assembly occupies about one-third less space on the bridge than the older helm/lee helm," said Lt. John Johnson, ship's assistant navigator.
"Watch standers have a tremendous amount of information at a glance on the new console display," he added.
The ship's foam firefighting system, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), was also tested throughout the ship.
"These tests included engaging AFFF stations on the ship to see if it works electronically," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Gary Lee, damage control division work center supervisor. "We actually discharge anti-fire foam and the fire main throughout the exterior of the ship and hangar bay spaces to test for the right mixture ratio of AFFF to water. We will be conducting these tests again during sea trials in February and April 2006," he said.
According to Lee, success of this test lay mainly on the shoulders of Sailors working in damage control and repair lockers throughout the ship.
To test the refurbished rudders and screws, the ship conducted high-speed tests and sharp turns called a 30/30 drill. This successful maneuver was completed on Dec. 14, when Stennis achieved the ship's full speed and its sharpest turn, steaming at 30 knots and turning the rudders to 30 degrees, hence the name 30/30.
"It's important to see if the ship is able to make this kind of maneuver," said Chief Quartermaster (SW/AW) Edward Lawson, Navigation department leading chief petty officer. He explained that the ship does not normally conduct these severe maneuvers with aircraft on the deck, but it is necessary to see how the ship will handle under extreme situations. "It's also important to teach the entire crew to have their spaces secured for sea," he said.
Stennis also received upgrades to its weather forecasting and meteorology monitoring systems, including new receivers, antennas and satellite link-up capabilities, making it safer for the ship to navigate and operate in all climates, even the unpredictable Pacific Northwest.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Matt Moore, ship's meteorology officer, the new system upgrades are a significant improvement to the ship's meteorology and weather forecasting capabilities.
"The upgrades give Stennis the leading edge in acquiring and presenting a much more detailed and customized picture of weather and oceanographic systems," Moore said. "Using commercial-off-the-shelf components, Stennis now receives very-high resolution imagery every couple hours that is unique to Stennis."
Another evolution involving the entire crew were the many General Quarters (GQ) drills held throughout the week. The drills are based on real-world scenarios and require the crew to react quickly and safely to defend and save the ship. This is essential training for the ship's entire crew.
"GQ training drills are needed to be conducted often to train all personnel how to defend the ship," said Lee. "It is imperative to this command that everyone participates in these drills very seriously so they know what to do in an actual emergency situation," he said.
Stennis' successful completion of sea trials will lead the ship to the next phase of testing this winter, when the Navy's board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) team will come on board. The inspection is typically conducted every five years to perform a thorough all-encompassing inspection of nearly every aspect of a Navy vessel in areas of material readiness, maintenance and safety.
Stennis began its shipyard availability in January after changing 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/.