PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- Crew members from Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8) returned to port in Pascagoula, Miss., Dec. 13 following five days at sea participating in sea trials conducted by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Gulf Coast (NGSB).
This underway period, which took place in the Gulf of Mexico, marks the first time a U.S. Navy hybrid gas turbine-electric propulsion system has been tested at sea and the first time Makin Island has gone to sea on its own power.
"Builder's Trials are the best training platform you can have prior to taking custody of the ship and getting underway," said Gas Turbine System Technician, Mechanical 1st Class (SW) William Toten, main propulsion division leading petty officer. "I learned so much these past couple of days because I finally got to see everything work together."
"On the bridge we were observing the plant status on the Machinery Control Console when we reduced speed on one shaft," said Capt. Robert Kopas, Makin Island's prospective commanding officer. "This gave us the opportunity to experience one of the unique features of MCS (machinery control system) in that the system automatically brought the other shaft up to compensate and keep the ordered speed. Typically, on most other ships you would have to manually order that to happen."
A large number of NGSB's tests also focused on spaces and equipment which will comprise Makin Island's command, control, computers, communications, combat, and intelligence (C5) suite. Makin Island is unique among amphibious assault ships because it's outfitted with a SPQ-9 combination fire control radar, upgraded air control radars and the latest generation of the Ships Self Defense System (SSDS).
"The tests on my system, the SSDS, were almost 100 percent successful, and our interaction with other combat systems has been consistently good," said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW) Amanda Organ, ship's self defense system technician. "Today, we acquired a Lear jet [and] we tracked him with our Close-In Weapons System. I realized that we were definitely able to protect ourselves as a Navy vessel."
Makin Island Sailors weren't the only ones underway for Builder's Trials. One Marine from combat cargo department got the opportunity to ensure the ship's 'green' spaces were on track.
"My primary focus during Builder's Trials was to check the Marines' habitability spaces aboard ship and to see what discrepancies the ship builder has fixed that have already been identified and sent up to SUPSHIP [Supervisor of Ship Building, Gulf Coast] for reconciliation," said Gunnery Sgt. Shane Snyder, combat cargo assistant. "Once Marines start using the ship for what it was designed for, then my focus will shift more to combat cargo. Then, I will make sure the green gear fits aboard ship and the load plans are proper."
With this part of Builder's Trials complete NGSB, along with SUPSHIP and the Makin Island crew, are preparing for additional underway testing and Acceptance Trials, the next big construction milestone prior to the ship's delivery in Spring 2009.
"The crew of Makin Island has truly been a valued team member with the SUPSHIP Gulf Coast LHD Project Office during all facets of Makin Island's construction and testing," said Deputy LHD Project Manager Fred Hoffmeyer. "They have shown a willingness to get involved, which demonstrates they have an accelerated mindset to be ready to accept ownership of Makin Island and all her systems. This hands-on approach by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic crew has substantially helped in getting Makin Island ready for sea."
Makin Island, scheduled for an Oct. 24, 2009 commissioning in San Diego, will be the Navy's eighth and final Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.
For more news from Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.