San Diego April 8, 2015 - The Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA 6), completed final contractor trials (FCT) April 3.
FCT, ran by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), is part of a series of post-delivery tests the ship has been preparing for since before commissioning. During the trials, the ship and its major systems are exercised, tested and corrected as required.
Ensign Nicholas Haan, America's assistant FCT coordinator, likened the experience to owning a new car with a warranty about to expire.
"That is exactly what we are doing right now. The warranty on our ship, straight from the factory, is going to expire soon, so we want to catch all the discrepancies we can find, make sure they are all noted and get them fixed," said Haan. "It ensures the ship builders are held responsible for the things they need to be held responsible for."
The four-day trials began March 30 with pre-underway and material condition checks, followed by at-sea demonstrations of a variety of systems including main propulsion, engineering and ship control systems, combat systems, damage control, food service and crew support.
"As damage control petty officers, we have been maintaining and demonstrating the ship's damage control systems," said Seaman Joshua Mercer, temporarily assigned to the ship's repair division. "For example, we maintain fire-plugs, so the inspectors will watch us perform our maintenance to ensure we are doing it correctly and that our equipment and systems are up to par. First, they visually check the equipment (hose, vari-nozzle, wye gate, etc.) as well as the internal integrity of all parts to make sure everything is working properly and nothing will break down. Everything needs to work, because if there was a fire, faulty equipment could mean somebody's life."
Nuclear aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) had representatives on board to see firsthand what the America crew was doing in preparation of their own visit from INSURV.
"We brought a team of four other guys to watch different functional areas, so that we could put a face to the name of the INSURV personnel and to learn how you guys did things that apply to aircraft carriers," said Senior Chief Engineman Robert Zantow, assistant INSURV coordinator for Stennis. "I think America did phenomenal. I hope Stennis performs as well as the America crew did, and I know we will as you guys have."
Haan said he was not surprised at how well America's crew worked together and was excited to help other ships through the process.
"We knew the ship was going to do well; we knew that to begin with," Haan said. "We have a great ship, and Capt. Hall said it best when he said, 'We already know where we are, we just need to show these guys [INSURV] where we are,' and that's what we did."
"We showed them we are always going to put our best foot forward no matter what the situation is," Haan added. "America has set the bar high, and from here on we will maintain that bar and help others to achieve it too."
After successfully completing FCTs, the ship will head into a maintenance period known as post shakedown availability (PSA) beginning late Spring. During this time the discrepancies that were noted will be resolved.
America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships, and is optimized for Marine Corps aviation.