On Tuesday, March 15th, USS SPRUANCE (DDG 111) set sail for four days to participate in a series of Sea Trials to test all of Combat Systems and Engineering capabilities. More than 400 contractors, inspectors, shipbuilders, and SPRUANCE crew members were onboard ensuring construction is on track and the ship will be ready for sail away on September 1st. Supervisor Ship Building Bath’s Aegis Test Officer, LCDR Schroder, accurately recapped the week’s events in his statement: “This crew was the best prepared combat systems team that I have seen in recent history.”
The biggest test of the week was for SPRUANCE’s Fire Control Team, whose job was to intercept a drone headed towards a simulated aircraft carrier. One of the most important missions of an Aegis Destroyer is to provide anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense for larger, more vulnerable ships such as aircraft carriers. In order to ensure the crew and equipment’s proficiency, SPRUANCE fired two Standard Missiles (SM-2) at incoming drones in an attempt to intercept the drones before they reached their simulated target. Due to the expertise of the crew and superb construction of the systems, both missiles acquired their targets and successfully disabled the drones. The air defense exercise was flawlessly conducted in record time for all ships constructed at Bath Iron Works (BIW).
Along with the missile exercises, SPRUANCE crew members conducted firing tests on SPRUANCE’s 5”/62 caliber MK 45 gun, Close-In Weapons System (CIWS), and Mark 36 Super Rapid Blooming Offboard Chaff (SRBOC) launcher. Both the 5” gun and CIWS are intended to defend the ship against incoming small sea or air craft. The 5” gun can shoot approximately twenty rounds per minute and for Super Trials, SPRUANCE shot twenty-five practice rounds to ensure that the computers in Combat Information Center (CIC) were in-sync with the gun. CIWS is located on the aft end of the ship and can shoot 4,500 rounds per minute as a last defense against missiles and inbound small craft. SPRUANCE Fire Controlmen (FCs) were able to shoot 1,500 rounds of ammunition flawlessly in an attempt to calibrate the system and ensure its accuracy.
In addition to all of the weapons testing onboard SPRUANCE, Engineering Department also had the opportunity to shine. One of SPRUANCE’s distinguishing characteristics from all other Naval Destroyers is a new Machinery Control System (MCS) which provides the crew the ability to control the engineering plant from four different, state-of-the-art consoles in three different locations. This gives the ship a better chance of surviving an attack if the engineering controls in one area are disabled. To test the MCS, the contractors and crew conducted full power runs, bringing all four main engines online and driving the ship at its maximum speed, well over thirty knots. Additionally, a full “connected load test” was completed, ensuring the ship’s three generators can easily handle the largest electrical load possible.
The most important riders onboard were inspectors from Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). Established by Congress in 1882, the board members make their reports on the readiness condition of SPRUANCE directly to the Senate and House of Representatives. While onboard, inspectors watched contractors run series of equipment tests and walked around all of the critical compartments onboard SPRUANCE, ensuring the ship would be meet the Navy’s standards when the government takes delivery of this one-billion dollar warship on April 15th, at Ship Custody Transfer (SCT). Thanks to the hard work of the contractors and crew, INSURV inspectors liked what they saw and declared that SPRUANCE will be the newest ship in the US Fleet by April.
Although living quarters were tight and working hours were long and arduous, SPRUANCE’s crew impressed both contractors and inspectors alike. The SPRUANCE’s sailors’ professionalism, flexibility, and skill made Super Trials successful and indicate future success in the months to come. With sail away only five and a half months away, there is a long way to go, but judging by the successes of this past week, SPRUANCE’s team will earn the title “Quiet Warriors” well before commissioning.