NEWPORT NEWS, Va (NNS) -- A vital part of air operations aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is the air interceptor controllers (AIC).
AICs are responsible for recognizing enemy aircraft and distinguishing whether the plane is a commercial flight or an enemy attacking from a distance. Once recognized, the AICs determine what weapons are on the aircraft and what the capabilities are of each weapon to warn the pilots.
Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Rancell Graves, from operations department serves as the only qualified AIC aboard Carl Vinson and has held the qualification for eight years.
For an operations specialist to become an AIC they must be E-5, enlisted surface warfare qualified, identification supervisor qualified, pass a pretest which, if failed, automatically disqualifies them and attend a 42-day school that teaches the schematics of the job.
"Once we hit the seas and an aerial battle is eminent, we come into play" said Graves. "It's our job to make sure our bird gets to the fight, without us our birds only have a 45-degree angle. We have the bird's eye view."
Graves explained that with modern technology, battles in the air are hardly fought up close in a "dog fight" situation and most strikes will be from a distance.
Each AIC has a call sign that are identical to the respective pilots. Graves got his call sign, "Digger", based on his last name and the uncanny accuracy he displays while doing his job, meaning Grave "Digger".
As Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Charlie Ward puts it, "Our enemies are dead in the sky with Graves controlling."
Carl Vinson is completing its scheduled refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.
During RCOH, Carl Vinson's nuclear fuel has been replenished and the ship's services and infrastructure upgraded to make her the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and prepare for another 25 years or more of service.
For more news from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn70/.