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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Explained: What are full ship shock trials, held to make US warships battle-ready?

The recent FSST, carried out for the USS Gerald R Ford, triggered an earthquake of 3.9 magnitude at sea.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 24, 2021 7:33:30 am
In FSSTs, an underwater explosive charge is set off near an operational ship, and system and component failures are documented, as per a 2007 document on the subject by the JASON group of elite US scientists. (Photo Source: Twitter/ USS Gerald R Ford)

The US Navy Friday carried out a ‘full ship shock trial’ on the USS Gerald R Ford, its newest and most advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, by detonating around 18 tonnes of explosives a few metres near the ship, to ensure its hardness was capable of withstanding battle conditions.

The megablast triggered an earthquake of 3.9 magnitude at sea around 160 km off the coastal state of Florida, as per USNI news, and videos of the test released by the US military have since gone viral on YouTube and social media.

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“The U.S. Navy conducts shock trials of new ship designs using live explosives to confirm that our warships can continue to meet demanding mission requirements under harsh conditions they might encounter in battle,” an official statement read.

What is a Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST)?

During World War II, American warships suffered severe damage from enemy mines and torpedoes that had actually missed their target, but exploded underwater in close proximity. The US Navy has since worked to improve the shock proofing of their ship systems to minimise damage from such “near miss” explosions.

In FSSTs, an underwater explosive charge is set off near an operational ship, and system and component failures are documented, as per a 2007 document on the subject by the JASON group of elite US scientists. The FSST “probes whether the components survive shock in their environment on the ship; it probes the possibilities of system failures, and large components that could not be otherwise tested,” the document says.

Such trials are usually conducted on ships that are the first of a new class to be built – like the Gerald R Ford.

The FSST carried out on the USS Gerald R Ford

The US Navy called the trial “successful”, as the Ford was able to withstand the powerful explosion in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The first-in-class aircraft carrier was designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship,” the statement read.

According to the US Navy, this was the first FSST carried out on an aircraft carrier in 34 years, the last such test having taken place on USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in 1987. As per Defence News, this was the first of three blasts to be carried out to test the Ford.

The advanced warship, named after a former US President, is 333m long, 77m high and has a displacement of 1,00,000 tonnes full load while comprising two nuclear reactors and four shafts, as per an Independent report. It is the lead ship of the Gerald R. Ford class, and was commissioned by former President Donald Trump in 2017.

The US Navy said that the shock trials are being conducted “within a narrow schedule that complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area.”

“Upon completion of FSST later this summer, Ford will enter a Planned Incremental Availability for six months of modernization, maintenance, and repairs prior to its operational employment,” it said.

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