The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) tested the ship’s defense capabilities during Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT), April 20- May 2.
CSSQT tested Abraham Lincoln’s ability to safely and effectively operate onboard weapons systems, including the close-in weapons system (CIWS), rolling airframe missile (RAM) launchers and the Enhanced NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System (ENSSMS).
“This evolution is important to our operational readiness as it provides the opportunity for Combat Direction Center [CDC] watch standers and gunners to train like they will fight by engaging moving targets and drones with live weapons,” said Abraham Lincoln’s Operations Officer Cmdr. Derek Fix.
The CIWS, a 20mm radar-guided Gatling gun, fires 4,500 rounds per minute to protect the ship from air and surface threats by using a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera. Abraham Lincoln’s CIWS completed a simulated air defense drill by tracking and firing upon a towed drone unit (TDU), which was towed behind a jet and served as an airborne target. The CIWS also successfully tracked and fired upon a remote-controlled high-speed maneuvering seaborne target (HSMST) during a surface engagement drill. This was the first time since the ship’s half-life Refueling and Overhaul (RCOH) maintenance period that Abraham Lincoln’s CIWS has tracked and fired upon such targets, marking another key milestone in the ship’s return to operational readiness.
“It was a good feeling knowing that we’re able to pull this off,” said Lt. James Fischer, a tactical actions officer and the air defense officer for CSSQT. “I’ve seen CIWS surface shoots before, but this was the first TDU shoot. I want to give a special thank you to everyone in CDC for making this work; this certainly wasn’t just a one-person job.”
In addition to the CIWS, Abraham Lincoln fired one RIM-162D Sea Sparrow missile and one RIM-116 test RAM for the first time since finishing RCOH.
“Not a lot of people experience shooting a missile,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jason Marler, a combat systems divisional work center supervisor. “I have five years in the Navy, and I’ve now seen a NATO shoot and RAM launch all in one day. My chief, who has more than 18 years in the Navy, has never seen a NATO shoot prior to this week…This is something I plan to brag about in the future.”
The Enhanced NATO Sea Sparrow missile is a semi-active missile requiring a feed from directors to locate a target. The RAM is a passive missile that uses built-in sensors to track down its target. The ship’s ENSSMS holds eight missiles per launcher, and the RAM launchers each hold 21 missiles.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Timothy J. Butler, Abraham Lincoln’s fire control officer said his team spent more than five weeks of hard work and preparation to be ready for the three-day CSSQT evolution and, ultimately, arm the ship with the capability to defend herself.
“We’ve all spent weeks, hours and days getting ready for this evolution,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew J. Miller, a combat systems divisional leading petty officer. “For us, being able to detect and engage targets shows how far we’ve come from RCOH and what we’re capable of.”
Testing Abraham Lincoln’s ship’s self-defense system (SSDS) is critical to taking the ship another step closer to launch as a deployment-ready warship.
“For me, this has been a rewarding journey,” said Butler. “When I checked aboard Abraham Lincoln, we did not have any of the weapon systems installed. Now, after two years [aboard], we are finally able to demonstrate how we defend ourselves.”
Since returning to an operational status in 2017, every first for Abraham Lincoln’s systems is a momentous occasion. The moment the missile systems launched for the first time in so many years will be a memory that won’t soon be forgotten by Sailors who waited so long to get back into the fight.