US Navy’s Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) returned to sea March 28 after completing a scheduled planned incremental availability (PIA) which started in the second half of 2017.
During the overhaul, the carrier received innovative upgrades, including a carrier-based Unmanned Aviation Warfare Center (UAWC).
Ike is the first carrier to be outfitted with the foundational, physical UAWC space which will allow it to operate the MQ-25 Stingray – the first operational, carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft.
“A disciplined and thoughtful approach to the basics brought us here,” said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike’s commanding officer of seeing the ship get underway. “We’ve been training for this for quite some time and invested a tremendous amount of sweat along the way.”
Ike is currently conducting sea trials off the coast of Virginia alongside engineers and shipyard employees from Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), running through a checklist of evolutions, including conducting small-boat operations, testing countermeasure washdown systems, executing high-speed turns, and testing catapults.
While shipyard workers test out systems, sailors are evaluating their readiness to become an operational crew, conducting numerous drills to test their mettle in various areas such as damage control, deck seamanship and flight deck operations.
As the sea trials continue, the ship is expected to conclude the PIA and the maintenance phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP). NNSY, which led the PIA efforts, will then depart the ship and leave it completely in the hands of its crew.
“This availability allowed us to deliver Ike back to the fleet prepared to execute its mission with a number of mechanical, electrical, and combat systems improvements,” said NNSY project superintendent Lonnie Kenley. “It took a total team effort by ship’s force and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard project team to deliver this critical asset ‘ready to fight.’”
Once the ship returns from sea trials, it will signal Ike’s transition to the basic phase of OFRP. Under the basic phase, sailors start to work together as a team at sea. Ultimately, Ike will continue preparations with an eye toward its upcoming deployment as part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10.
CSG 10, also known as the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, includes the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D, Eisenhower (CVN 69), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Monterey (CG 61), USS San Jacinto (CG 56), and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the ships and staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26; and the squadrons and staff of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3.