HMAS Newcastle rendezvoused with “Big Ike” the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea for a day of steaming in company on 2 June 2013.
Joining the one hundred thousand-ton Nimitz-class carrier and her escorts the Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser USS Hue City and the German Guided Missile Frigate FGS Hamburg at dawn, Newcastle’s snap-happy Ship’s Company observed the carrier’s morning deck cycle from 500 yards on her beam.
The noise at that range was deafening as “Big Ike” launched a variety of aircraft including EA-6B Prowlers, E2 Hawkeye and F/A-18F Super Hornets.
Eight lucky members of Newcastle’s Ship’s Company were fortunate enough to enjoy a day aboard the carrier as part of a personnel exchange.
Exchanges were selected by raffle. The $800 raised going to the ship’s long standing charity, the Hunter Orthopaedic School in Newcastle.
In return, Newcastle was visited by a contingent of US Navy midshipmen on their first training cruise.
The Aussie tourists began their tour on the 333 metre flight deck where they were able to stand just metres away from fighter jets as they launched and recovered.
LSML-C Nick Collins was in awe of the experience and was impressed by the fluid way in which the flight deck operations happened around them.
“It was fascinating and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how an aircraft carrier operates. It was like a floating airport only faster paced,” LSML-C Collins said.
“I bought 75 of the 400 raffle tickets for an opportunity to cross-deck. It was an experience I will never forget and worth every dollar spent!”
After lunch Newcastle took “plane guard” station one mile astern of Ike while F/A-18F Super Hornets returned from sorties over Afghanistan, often flying no more than 100 feet above the Adelaide Class frigate.
Conning Newcastle a mere 2,000 yards astern of an aircraft carrier was a unique experience for ASLT Mitchell Vines.
“It was a challenging but rewarding experience,” he said after Newcastle detached from the carrier.
“Despite being such a large ship, Eisenhower is quite manoeuvrable and some of the normal rules for station-keeping off large ships don’t apply. Being able to report to command that we were in station off an aircraft carrier isn’t something you get to do every day.”
The day was then made even more special for ASLT Vines, when he was awarded his Bridge Warfare Certificate (BWC) by Commanding Officer (CO) Newcastle, CMDR Paul O’Grady, CSM.
“I’m stoked, obviously. It was a pretty special day already, made even more special by being awarded my BWC.
“Having the presentation in the shadow of a plane landing overhead and with our American guests on board made it a pretty unique event. Not many people can say they got their ticket while in company with a carrier,” ASLT Vines said.
The opportunity to get up close and personal with a US Navy Carrier Strike Group right at the start of the deployment has given the crew of Newcastle a wider perspective of the coalition operations underway in the Middle East Area of Operations.
ABBM Stuart McGuigan, part of Newcastle’s Gun Direction Platform team said it was the first time he’s worked with Allied Nations at sea.
“It was pretty awesome. We got really close to them, but I would have loved to have won the raffle to go and see it myself,” ABBM McGuigan said.
Press release, June 13, 2013; Image: Australian Navy