Monday, 13 October 2014

On Board USS Carl Vinson

We sail with just 2 crew most times, so it was amazing to visit a vessel with a ship's crew of 3000, plus another 3000 "passengers" being the various air wing teams deployed aboard.  That's 6000 people on a ship that is 1000' long, and displaces 192,900 tons. 

Crystal Blues neighbour at Keppel Bay Marina was a very smart Riviera power cruiser that is owned by the US embassy in Singapore. Commander Paul Harris Wilt runs the boat, whilst his real job is Assistant Naval Attache at the embassy. Paul invited us to a reception on board the carrier when the battle group berthed in Singapore. The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is the third United States Navy Nimitz class supercarrier and is named after Carl Vinson, a Congressman from Georgia, in recognition of his contributions to the US Navy.

Onboard, we moved through an honor guard into a massive aircraft hanger, dressed with flags, where the reception was held.  Military music, food and drinks of course, on an otherwise "dry" US Navy vessel. 

The real fun began after the speeches and formalities - we were invited to ride the aircraft lift up to the flight deck and inspect the various aircraft up there.  An amazing site, dozens of aircraft of many types, positively eerie on the darkened flight deck.
   My brother Peter Langford was with us, and we were all amazed at the seeming lack of security.  The cockpits had been blacked out, but we had complete external access to helicopters, F18 Hornet fighters and the impressive E-2C Hawk Eye radar surveillance aircraft.  

The pilots of the aircraft were there for us to meet and to explain their missions and operations.  Escorted by a cruiser and frigate, the ship had departed California around six weeks earlier, and while the crew could not tell us where they were headed, as one officer said, "you can probably guess".

The friendly and enthusiastic  nature of the officers and crew was a surprise and a delight.  There was no doubting their motivation, commitment and professional capabilities.  A highly trained team with first class technology at their fingertips. 

Last Tuesday night as we headed north west in the Malacca Straits, one of the battle group sped past us on the same course, dark and ominous in the Malacca Straits.  We could see her under the full moon, probably going 25 knots faster than us, but the AIS (Automatic Identification System) certainly didn't show her up.

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