USA: San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock Underway First Time Since Commissioning
The San Antonio class amphibious transport dock USS Arlington (LPD 24) performed underway replenishments and flight quarters, completed combat systems trials in the Virginia Capes Operating Area, and trained midshipmen, June 3-11.
Arlington’s last underway is when the ship sailed from the Huntington-Ingalls Industries’ shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.. to Naval Station Norfolk, March 8 – 22.
“When we got the ship underway from Pascagoula, we were doing things that were advanced for us, but still very basic operationally,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Lull, executive officer. “We have made some large steps forward, and getting into more complex operations and drills.”
The Arlington performed her first underway replenishment, employing the Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method, June 4. Steaming about 200 feet alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198), Arlington received more than 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine and JP-5 jet fuel from the oiler.
“We had a lot of inexperienced deck seamen at the rig stations who have never done an underway replenishment before,” said Lt. j.g. Laura Price, assistant first lieutenant. “However, we spent nearly a full day on May 22 in port performing a shipboard qualification trial with USNS John Lenthall (T-AO 189), which provided us with a lot of practical knowledge of the rigs, line-handling and safety. Everyone was on their game, so Arlington’s leadership was very confident with doing our first underway replenishment.”
In addition to three underway replenishments, Arlington conducted three flight quarters, performed deck landing qualifications with Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon ship delivery helicopters and MH-60 Sierra multi-mission helicopters, and Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
“The first night went very well,” said Lt. Caleb Lindh, mini boss, air department. “It was slow, but everything got done. During later evolutions, we had some problems with inclement weather.”
Lindh was impressed by the level of proficiency displayed by Arlington’s air department.
“It’s very evident that most of them have a lot of prior experience recovering and launching aircraft,” said Lindh. “Most of them are very intuitive about what needs to be done, and when and how to do it, so there is a minimum amount of communication necessary between the control tower and the flight deck.”
The Arlington’s busy underway period also provided 17 U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen with a hands-on introduction to life aboard an amphibious warship.
“They were integrated into the crew and they moved from one department to another,” said Lull. “They got to spend some time doing firefighting training, on the helm and conning the ship, doing a crew-served weapons shoot with the M240B machine guns, and serving as line-handlers during our underway replenishments. This was our opportunity to show them the surface Navy is all about.”
Arlington completed the second and final part of the first phase of the Combat Systems Ship Qualifications (CSSQT) for Surface Ships (the first part occurred from May 20-31) while the amphibious transport dock was import at Naval Station Norfolk, June 7 – 11.
According to the Navy’s guiding instruction regarding CSSQT, NAVSEAINST 9093.1C, “the purpose of CSSQT is to verify and validate that an individual ship’s combat/weapons system have been installed correctly and can be operated and maintained in a safe and effective manner.”
About 15 evaluators from Naval Sea Systems Command’s Warfare Centers boarded Arlington to verify and validate the ship’s combat systems through demonstration and operational testing.
“One of the major accomplishments we hoped to gain from the first phase of CSSQT was to gain a full understanding of our system operability and capabilities,” said Lt. Shawanna Poarch, combat systems officer. “We hope to be able to groom our systems and make sure they are 100 percent operable for the second phase, which is when we get to show our equipment and its functionality.”
The focus of the part of CSSQT combat watch team training was establishing missile firing procedures, GO/NO-GO criteria for gunnery exercises, casualty identification and mitigation, and simulated Detect to Engage exercises. The combat systems department also demonstrated and tested the ship’s radars and communications suite.
Poarch believes that one of Arlington’s greatest strengths is the ability for more than 70 Sailors – including Electronics Technicians, Fire Controlmen, Gunner’s Mates and Information Systems Technicians.
“(To) function as a team, we learned to that do that really well during Phase 1 with all the training opportunities that were provided to us,” said Poarch. “We showed the CSSQT team, who had never seen our Sailors in action before, that we were setting the bar high for the waterfront.”
Arlington passed the first phase of CSSQT, and will move on to the certification phase, which will include live firing missile and gunnery exercises, while underway this summer.
“In addition to CSSQT, we will be doing a lot of other systems testing to iron out the wrinkles,” said Lull. “Arlington is an enormous warship and a multibillion-dollar investment by our government, so we are trying to get the best product we can. Our goal his summer is to find anything that needs improvement and then work with the shipbuilders to make those corrections. We will be fully operational at the end of our next yard period, and ready to join the warfighting fleet.”
Arlington is the eighth in Navy’s San Antonio class of ships, designed to be the most survivable amphibious vessels ever put to sea. The third in the U.S. fleet to bear the name, Arlington is homeported in Norfolk, Va.
The ship combines 21st century amphibious shipbuilding and warfighting technologies to support current and future Marine Corps aircraft and landing craft, and will be capable of taking nearly 1,200 Sailors and Marines into harm’s way.
Press Release, June 20, 2013