Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Visit to aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis

The US Embassy recently sent an invite to visit the USS John C. Stennis. I quickly responded with a "Yes", and looked forward to my second visit to a aircraft carrier. (1st visit to USS George Washington in October 2011)

I reached Changi Naval Base (CNB) before the designated time of 1pm. Chatted with the US sailors on duty while waiting for the rest of the visitors to arrive. A quick security check, then onto the shuttle bus. Spotted a South Korean destroyer, ROKS Munmu the Great, docked in CNB also.

First highlight was seeing a submarine. A check later revealed that it was the USS Connecticut, a Seawolf-class submarine. Pity it wasn't available for a visit.

Once onboard the Stennis, we were given a quick intro by the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Harrell (I hope I got his name correctly).

We were then allowed to roam around the hangar to take photos and mingle with the sailors.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Morley, PAO for Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC), provided an interesting comparison between the Seahawk helicopters and submarines. He felt that the choppers were more useful because of their versatility.

Next, we took the elevator to the flight deck. We were introduced to a EA-6B Prowler pilot (from VAQ-133), who explained the main feature of the Prowler, which is to jam enemy radars.

She also highlighted that the squadron will be transitioning to the EA-18G Growler soon.

Yours truly then took a tumble, courtesy of one of the arrestor cables; super malu :)

I was rushing to the stern of the carrier, where a E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft (from VAW-112) was open for viewing. It was eye-opening to be able to view the interior of the Hawkeye. Space was cosy, but not too cramped.

Last but not least, it was great to be able to see the famous "Ouija board", which provides a "live" view of the position of the planes on deck. There is also a corresponding board for the hangar deck. We were introduced to the different objects used to represent the status, e.g. a purple nut indicates the plane needs to be refuelled. (the refuelling crew on board wear purple vests)

A new touchscreen system will eventually replace the Ouija board. The officer joked that he hoped to play "Angry Birds" on the touchscreen.

Photos of the visit at the link below.

p.s. I found myself using the 18-55mm kit lens exclusively. Lighting conditions were good, and most shots were shot at 18mm (around 27mm in 35mm format).

p.p.s. For a glimpse of life on a carrier, do view this 2008 PBS documentary "Carrier". Episode 1 here.

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