What is the best way to know if something you built works? To know if their new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, is good enough for the sea, the US Navy is testing it by setting off real explosives right next to it.
According to a 2007 study, the origin of a Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST) dates back to the Second World War. The purpose of an FSST is to verify whether a warship is capable of taking a hit and still continuing on its mission in a real event.
The U.S. Navy has conducted these trials over several decades and for all classes of its warships. In 2016, it trialed Littoral Combat Ships, USS Jackson, and USS Milwaukee while in 2008, it trialed the amphibious transport dock USS Marda Verde. In 1990, it trialed the amphibious assault ship, USS Wasp but the last time an aircraft carrier was trialed was way back in 1987, USS Theodore Roosevelt.
An aircraft carrier functions as an air-force base in the sea with a full-length flight deck and capabilities of carrying multiple aircraft and deploying air attacks in the sea. USS Theodore Roosevelt was a Nimitz class aircraft carrier, which is being replaced by the new-generation aircraft carriers called Gerald R Ford Class. Like the Nimitz class carriers, the Ford-class are also nuclear-powered aircraft carriers but are 1092 feet (333m) long and 256 feet (78m) wide and can carry up to 75 aircraft onboard.
The shock trials are also mandated by the National Defence Authorisation Act of 2016. The US Navy employs extensive protocols for the safety of personnel and civilians during the shock trials. However, the window of testing given to USS Ford is small to accommodate marine life migration patterns in the area.
The successful completion of the shock trials of USS Ford will also validate its battle-ready features which were designed using advanced computer modeling methods, a first for any aircraft carrier.