October 11, 2016 - Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) pulled into San Diego, Oct. 10, after completing a successful six-day sea trials and officially marking the completion of a 20-month extended planned incremental availability.
Nimitz got underway for the first time since January 2015 when it pulled away from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Oct. 5, to begin the sea trials phase.
Sea trials is intended to assess the ship's readiness by evaluating the crew's performance, and testing the operability of the ship's equipment and upgrades using various system checks and drills.
"I would say sea trials was an overall success," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Matthew Searer, leading chief petty officer of navigation department.
Searer added every department ran into a few problems of their own, but overall the ship performed well mechanically.
Some of the major evaluations included the execution of high-speed turns, an activation of the ship's countermeasure wash down and aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) systems, sea and anchor and precision anchoring exercises, testing of the ship's self-defense weapons, and man overboard drills.
"Sea trials, for us, is a lot like a normal underway cleaning and maintaining the hangar bays," said Seaman Tyven Mcelhinny. "We got the opportunity to deep clean all the hangar bays after lighting off the AFFF. It was something I have never gotten to do, and it was actually really fun."
While underway, the ship's MK-38 25mm machine gun, MK-15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and .50-caliber machine guns were tested.
Among the many successes of the underway, the certification of the ship's catapults, which received extensive work and upgrades during the maintenance period, is the first step in allowing Nimitz to launch aircraft once it returns to sea.
"The certification is critical to the safe launch of aircraft," said Ensign Lester Quinlin, air boatswain in charge of V-2's maintenance program. "More than 45,000 man-hours were put into the catapult maintenance. It feels great to be able to go to sea and know we have the ability to take CVN 68 to the fight."
With sea trials successfully completed, the ship and crew can look forward to the next milestone. Nimitz will soon be joined by Carrier Strike Group 11 and Carrier Air Wing 11 to begin conducting flight operations and begin working on flight deck certification upon returning to sea.
This will be the crew's first time underway with new Strike Group Commander Rear Adm. William D. Byrne, and the strike group staff, since he took command in September.
In the coming months, Nimitz will undergo a series of inspections and multi-ship exercises as a part of a work-up cycle that will test the ship's proficiency and capabilities in preparation for her upcoming 2017 deployment.