Residents in Jacksonville, Florida experienced a 3.9 magnitude earthquake on Sunday that was also recorded by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Just like the quake experienced earlier in June, this quake too was triggered by the Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST) of the USS Gerald R.Ford, the US Navy confirmed later.
FSST's have been conducted since World War II to test the battle-readiness of a ship. Apart from testing the ship's design and systems, an FSST also checks the resilience of its crew, as the ship prepares for its eventual deployment at sea.
During the trials, real explosives are blasted close to the ship to test its shock hardness and ability to sustain operations in a combat environment. The recent explosion completed the four-month-long FSST for the USS Gerald Ford. During this process, live ordnance was deployed progressively closer to the ship. Earlier in June, a similar test was performed successfully and then followed by another one in July. On all occasions, the USS Ford masterfully handled shocks from 40,000-pound (~18000 kg) underwater blasts.
The Navy has designed the Ford Class using advanced computer modeling methods. Rear Adm. James P. Downey, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, was onboard the ship for the first and last of the trials. On completion of the trials, Downey said, "FSST has proven a critical investment in the Ford-class development. The ship and crew performed exceptionally in these very strenuous conditions and continued their operations throughout the shock events, demonstrating the ship’s ‘fight-through capability."
The FSST is quite exacting in terms of planning and execution requirements and Ford’s trials were no exception. Before each test, the FSST had to notify mariners to avoid the test area, while implementing safety protocols for military and civilian personnel. Also involved in the test were scientists, biologists, and observers who used high-powered lenses to detect marine life at great distances through ocean waves and white caps. Several variables were taken into account before each test including weather and pre-set environmental mitigation measures aimed at protecting marine life spotted in the test area.
Following the completion of the shock trials, the USS Gerald Ford will now return to the Tidewater area for Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) that will last six months. During this period, detailed inspections will be carried out to check for any damages sustained during the trials while modernization work will also be taken up to prepare for the aircraft carrier's deployment in 2022.