Archives for category: Combat Systems


Story by MC3 Grant Wamack
Photo by MC3 Will Tyndall
Towering more than 100 feet into the sky, a large square radar looms over the ship’s island as two small figures, suspended in a harness, dangle somewhere inside the radar running operational checks on the system.

Many different job ratings require personnel to work aloft, but the fire controlmen, or FCs, of Combat Systems Department’s 7-Fox Division are responsible for maintaining the AN/SPS- 48E, one of the air search radars aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN74).

“Radars are continuously spinning and they’re always exposed to the weather,” said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Carlos Cruz. “We have to make sure they’re rotating correctly and conducting maintenance checks on the internal side.”

The SPS-48E, also known as the “twister,” is located on the forward portion of the ship’s mast, and is used for tracking range, bearing, and altitude. FCs make sure the radar is kept in alignment and good working condition to ensure the information it collects is precise and consistent.

“If we don’t maintain our radars properly then we do not get the right information,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Michael Cox, work center supervisor for 7-Fox.

Because of the importance of the SPS-48E, the Sailors in 7-Fox routinely inspect the equipment for cracks, leaks, oil levels and overall condition to ensure the radar is functioning properly.

“The SPS-48E is an expensive piece of equipment,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Cameron Moyer. “It’s important that we stay consistent with the required maintenance and make sure we are well trained.”

Not just any Sailor with a maintenance requirement card, which lists the physical steps in order, can conduct maintenance on the twister. Sailors in 7-Fox must complete a series of prerequisites regarding the radar system’s inner workings as well as work under the observation of an FC with experience as a radar repair technician.

“It’s not just about understanding the maintenance, a Sailor must be aware of many things like weather conditions, high voltage and their surroundings,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Dragos Craciun. “We observe new Sailors before they are qualified so we are confident that they are competent and safe to work there.”

Safety is always essential to proper maintenance on the twister, and many variables come with working on the radar. According to Cox, every precaution is taken to ensure the process is a safe one.

“If everyone follows the safety procedures and dons the harness correctly, then things will be fine,” said Cox. “It’s actually much safer than people think.”

The SPS-48E is a mission-essential piece of equipment aboard the ship and with the help of well-trained FCs, Stennis will remain ready to conduct theater security cooperation efforts, maritime security and combat operations when needed.

Story by MC1 Grant Ammon
Photo by MC2 Josue Escobosa

The ships of the USS John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) commenced an undersea warfare exercise (USWEX) in the Hawaiian operating area Aug. 8 as part of the strike groups final test and evaluation before arriving in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) and western Pacific Ocean.

Exercises like this are conducted several times throughout the year in the waters near Hawaii for maritime commanders to asses the undersea warfare capabilities of deploying strike groups.

“We’re taking part in an undersea warfare exercise as directed by the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet,” said Master Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Lucas Stiles, an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) analyst assigned to the Commander Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21. “This is an assessed ASW scenario involving a multitude of oppositional submarines that is designed to test our ability to move the carrier strike group into a specific operating area and establish ASW dominance.”

Conducting undersea warfare exercises in the Hawaiian operating area proves to be a beneficial training endeavor due to the readily available training ranges and the presence of ASW units and capabilities in the region, said Stiles.

“Training exercises like this one are invaluable to developing our core competencies within the strike group,” noted Stiles. “Operating in the Hawaiian area of operations ensures numerous ASW resources and training ranges are available for us to utilize. It really provides the strike group with a realistic training scenario.”

Providing a critical piece to JCS’ undersea warfare capabilities are the “Raptors” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71.

“The air assets and capabilities provided by HSM-71 are our only airborne organic ASW measure in the strike group,” said Lt. Sarah Sherrod, the Air Operations Officer for DESRON 21. “If we’re operating in blue water with no external support, they are all ASW capabilities we have in the air.

Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class Tonia Wilson, a watch stander in the DESRON 21 ASW cell aboard Stennis, has the unique responsibility of using her knowledge of science and oceanography to predict the location of oppositional forces under the water.

“We run ASW range predictions for oceanography from here and all of us assist with the detection and counter detection of submarines,” she said.

According to Wilson, the training provided before deployment contributed to her overall watchstanding effectiveness during this scenario.

“We really learned a lot during the exercises leading up to deployment and this training scenario,” noted Wilson. “We built a very good rapport and working relationship with all the units across the strike group.”

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lex T. Wenberg
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Murphy

During the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), ships in a unit such as the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) are subjected to complex training tests.

Among the assessments of COMPTUEX are the Green, Blue and Red Team assessments of computer network security aboard JCSCSG’s flagship USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

During Green, Blue and Red Team’s embarkation, Stennis’ network security enforcers, Information Assurance (IA), will be graded on their capabilities.

Ensuring responsible use of the ship’s computer network by the crew is just one of IA’s jobs. They are also responsible to the Commanding Officer for defending our networks against outside attacks.

“We develop and maintain a Command Level IA program to provide adequate security for all associated assets,” said Ensign Joseph Jones, Stennis’ Information Assurance Manager.

Green Team is the first of the three assessments where a group of security specialists embark and inspect the network for vulnerabilities. Green Team also gives recommendations to the ship for actions which IA can take to strengthen network security.

“Green Team is responsible for helping us see things we overlooked,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW/ AW) Eric Ebe. “This helps us root out security risks.”

Having completed the initial assessment, Green Team’s recommendations are already being implemented.

“During Green Team’s assessment, we saw iTunes installed on computers as well as other software,” said Ebe. “This type of software is not authorized on the ship’s computer network, so we got rid of it.”

What is supposed to be the next phase of the testing, called Blue Team, is almost identical to Green Team, but the results of the assessment carry far more weight. Blue Team has been postponed until June, said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW) Brandon Manning, IA’s current LPO.

“We had to jump right into the Red Team assessment due to time constraints,” said Manning.

Assuming the ship performs well for Red Team, a group of ethical hackers who will test network security procedures and attempt to exploit vulnerabilities and give the network a general work-over, the next step will be Blue Team.

“Some of the questions we ask ourselves between drills are: did we accomplish what Green Team asked us to?” said Ebe. “Were we able to make the changes fast enough? Red and Blue Team will evaluate our successes.”

The entire crew is involved in these phased assessments, said Jones.

“My request for the crew is not about the upcoming assessments,” said Jones. “It’s about what we need to do on a daily operational basis: do not install unauthorized software or hardware, stay away from porn sites, do not open suspicious e-mails that have attachments or links, no electronic spillage, etc. Everyone on the ship signed a SAAR-N form for access to the network, so please adhere to it.”

Failure to meet the standards of Blue Team’s assessment can mean a loss of connection to the Global Information Grid.

“That means no e-mail, no web browsing, no share drive, and no comms,” said Ebe. “Nothing.”

“This is the final assessment and will be the final condition we have to meet before deployment,” said Ebe.

Since communication is essential to any sea-going vessel, particularly the flagship of a carrier strike group, both IA and the rest of Stennis’ crew must be vigilant when it comes to proper network security.


Story and photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo

Whether Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis work on the flight deck, the mess decks or in reactor spaces, it’s an all hands mission to protect each other, and the same is true on social networking sites.

Sailors actively use sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with peers and family, and Stennis’ network security administrators rely heavily on the responsible activity of each Sailor who carefully uses them.

“Social networking is a great tool, but a lot of people don’t understand the consequences of using it inappropriately,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW/AW) Eric Ebe, Stennis’ network security officer.

When posting personal information, Ebe warns that Sailors can put themselves, their families and their shipmates at risk.

“Anybody can gather information about you and your friends,” said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Omar Hernandez, one of Stennis’ automated data processing help desk technicians.

Operational security is critical to the mission and safety of Sailors, said Hernandez. Sailors should not post sensitive information like deployment dates, kinds of weapons on the ship, and names of other Sailors. Any information posted to social networking sites can potentially be used to cause harm.

“Everything fits into a larger piece of the puzzle, said Ebe. “It’s the little things that count.”

Some applications on social networking sites can update Sailors’ exact location. Strangers can use that information to track them down and thieves can figure out they’re not home, said Ebe.

“It’s almost like putting up a sign saying ‘I’m not home, please rob me,” said Ebe. “All of this can be stopped if Sailors just change their privacy settings.”

Hernandez said it is also important for Sailors to be selective about whom they add as friends, especially if they don’t know them. People can send spam, malicious links and hack Sailors’ accounts to get further information about them. “Think twice about what you post, because once you post it, you can’t remove it,” said Hernandez.

For further information about the appropriate use of social networking sites, Sailors can visit Navy Knowledge Online at http://www.nko.navy.mil. Operational security is critical to protecting Sailors, the families and the successful accomplishment of mission requirements.


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Murphy
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Aboard Stennis there are three hunters, run by a group of skilled technicians, who patiently sit in their mounts, searching the seas, ready to track and destroy enemy air threats.

Phalanx Close-In-Weapons-Systems (CIWS), defense weapons systems maintained by fire controlmen, are on stand by ready to protect Stennis from potential enemy aircraft and incoming missile threats.

“It is one of the ship’s last defense mechanisms,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Erin DeVries. “It is a ridiculously big gun. It has its own radars and if you threw an apple at the ship hard enough the CIWS would find and destroy it.”

When CIWS is activated it can either be in air-ready phalanx manual or air-ready phalanx automatic. In both modes, the CIWS is searching for targets. The only difference is, when the gun recommends fire, in manual the operator pushes the fire button to shoot and in automatic mode the gun fires on its own.

While activated CIWS uses a search antenna to detect a target up to five nautical miles away. After the prey has been detected and tracked, CIWS aims its 20mm six-barrel gun and fires at a range of one nautical mile.

A CIWS holds up to 1,550 20mm tungsten rounds and fires at a speed of 4,500 rounds per minute.

CIWS rounds travel from the drum to the shooting gun and the shells from the fired rounds are recycled back into the drum to balance the weight of the system.

CIWS can be operated from two stations, the local control panel (LCP) or the remote control panel (RCP). The LCP is located in the CIWS mount and the RCP, which controls all three guns, is operated in the combat direction center.

Fire controlmen conduct pre-aim calibration (PAC) fires to ensure controls, the gun and radars are synchronized.

“During a PAC fire we shoot 100 round bursts in about 1.2 seconds,” said DeVries. “The shoot ensures us that the radars and the guns are pointing at the same place.”

DeVries said CIWS is made up of different mechanical and electrical components and that maintenance is time consuming.

“We own it, operate it and fix it,” said DeVries. “Maintenance is intensive and long. There is an semi-annual maintenance which is about 32.5 man hours long.”

“It takes experience and knowledge to run the CIWS,” said Fire Contolman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Matthew Reynolds. “There’s three second classes, one third, and one seaman that run CIWS and we know what we’re doing.”

In February, the five fire controlmen received a 100 percent score with no discrepancies on their evaluation during the ship’s Inspection and Survey (INSURV).

Fire Controlmen go to a seven-month school to learn the components and operations of the CIWS system. Reynolds said even though he learned a lot at school, the real learning happens when you get to the CIWS mount you’re assigned to.

“Every mount has its own personality,” said Reynolds. “Each mount is specific, and each system creates its own personality. Each system has its own maintenance issues and its own problems.”

DeVries said the best part about working with the CIWS is participating in a towed drone unit shoot, where an aircraft drags a drone behind it on a chain and the CIWS shoots it off.

“It is one of the times we actually get to fire the CIWS,” said DeVries. “We upload live rounds, the CIWS tracks it and it fires.”

CIWS is an integral part of the ship’s defense system, the five fire controlmen maintain them to help ensure Stennis can transit the seas, projecting sea power and protecting America’s interests.


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jamie Hawkins
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Whether Stennis’ Interior Communications Electricians (IC) are keeping Sailors connected through their telephones at sea or through their favorite sports television broadcast on land, their mission of keeping the ship’s communications equipment maintained at optimal levels at all times is vital to shipboard operations.

ICs are responsible for a myriad of systems, including video distribution equipment, telephone systems, ships’ force protection cameras, integrated launch and recovery television surveillance (iLARTS), and general alarm systems aboard Stennis.

“What we do is very critical, especially for a ship,” said Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class (SW) Christopher Stough, who has worked with IC equipment for over 12 years. “On a daily basis we have to repair 10 telephones. If we can’t talk to each other quickly then we lose efficiency, and everyone has a bad day.”

The diversity of the IC rate requires Sailors to work for different departments aboard Stennis.

“On a carrier the main departments ICs work for are Air, Engineering and Combat Systems,” said Stough. “We have a lot of work to do all around the ship whereas ICs on smaller ships might only work for Combat Systems. When ICs are on shore they usually work at repair facilities fixing phones and other gear.”

Every Sailor, military dependent, or government contractor who turns on a television or picks up a telephone on military facilities is utilizing an IC system, but the rate is not widely known beyond those who interact with ICs to achieve their mission.

“The television would have to be the easiest and most well known thing we do on the ship along with the flight deck cameras that record all launch and recoveries,” said Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Monty W. Starkey. “The dead reckoning system that tracks our movements in the water is one of our more challenging and less widely known systems.”

The IC Sailor can be found throughout the Navy working on systems from studio lighting for Mass Communication Specialists to alarm warnings in a weapons magazine with Aviation Ordnancemen aboard aircraft carriers.

“We are everywhere,” said Stough. “I started my career in V-2 Division on a carrier. We have the alarm warning shop, the regular and sound powered telephone shop and television control. We are a cross between EMs (Electrician’s Mate) and ETs (Electronics Technician).”

Like every Sailor, an IC must be well trained, but capable of taking on challenges outside of their realm of expertise.

“I personally have done a lot of work for the off ship communications and internet,” said Starkey. “Generally speaking, ICs handle a lot of stuff that we have no formal training for, but we get the job done.”

For ICs like Starkey and Stough, it’s this constant change, the challenges in need of solutions, that they joined the Navy for.

“I love my job,” said Stough. “Every day is something new. There is always a new challenge to overcome.”

From ships to shore, ICs keep the lines of communication open, enabling Sailors to accomplish various missions across the globe.

Fire Controlmen feed 20mm tungsten rounds into one of the close-in-weapons systems (CIWS) aboard Stennis. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate.)

Story and photo by
MC3 Kenneth Abbate

With the words ‘missile inbound from the port side’ roaring over the 1MC during general quarters, one can’t help but wonder: What are the ship’s defensive measures should drill become reality?

John C. Stennis’ Combat Systems and Weapons Departments are responsible for maintaining and operating the ship’s weapons systems.

As Stennis prepares to go back to sea from a planned maintenance period, the operability of its defense systems is vital to ensure its warfare capability.

“When a target becomes hostile, the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) will announce over the 1MC ‘man all air defense stations’,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Christopher Heiser. “All fire controlmen not on watch will spring into action. We will have all our systems armed and ready within seven minutes. We can track and engage several targets at the same time, which ensures that nothing will get past us.”

Combat Systems uses three different weapons 2010systems based on distance from the target and severity of the situation; the Re-architectured NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System (RNSSMS), Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) and close-in-weapons-system (CIWS). Weapons Department uses .50 caliber and M240 machine guns designed to protect the ship from small boat contacts.

The RNSSMS is the first line of defense, able to take out any incoming air or surface targets within 9-12 nautical miles. RAM, the second line of defense, can engage air targets inside 5-7 nautical miles. The CIWS provides the last line of defense by taking out targets within one nautical mile.

“The ship’s defensive weapons are the last thing between you and an incoming attack,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Kyle Novak, who worked with Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar systems, the shore version of CIWS, while filling an individual augmentee billet in Balad, Iraq in 2009. “CIWS in particular is great because it will lock on directly to whatever is inbound and will not stop shooting until the target is destroyed.”

Most Sailors never experience the fear of facing a real life threat that requires them to react on instinct. In the case of Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class David Jones, skills and training were put to the test when reacting to a threat while deployed last year.

“On the 2009 deployment, we were approached by an unidentified surface contact during night flights where we had to react,” said Jones. “My adrenaline was pumping and I was running on pure instinct. Nothing else mattered except protecting the ship and doing my job.”

According to Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Gordon Jacobs, all weapons systems are critical to the protection of the ship and crew.

“It is the last line of defense,” said Jacobs. “Once something gets past the aircraft, the weapons systems and the machine guns are instrumental in protecting the ship.”

John C. Stennis weapons systems are a deterrent and protect against incoming threats, allowing Stennis to safely complete missions at home and abroad.

Security baggage checker Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Kelly Patrick checks the contents of bags leaving the ship on the enlisted brow aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall/Released)

Story by MC3 Kathleen O’Keefe

Stennis security personnel continue to practice random anti-terrorism measures (RAM) and are conducting drills to ensure safety and security aboard the ship.

“RAMs are a very important part of our work,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Reggie James, a field training officer for security department. “The work we do is instrumental in deterring terrorist activities as well as detecting and confiscating contraband that would potentially cause harm to Sailors.”

RAMs vary from bag searches to extra watch personnel wanding Sailors transiting the brow, to changing watch procedures. The point is to make defense measures unpredictable and therefore harder to exploit.

“We perform a lot of drills so that people are trained to handle any situation,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Marsha Werner. “Drill packages contain different scenarios. We perform and grade the response to these scenarios and discuss the mistakes made later. Then we repeat the drill to make sure everything is done correctly.”

Each drill targets a particular security measure. Intruder drills are done constantly to ensure personnel know what to look for when checking ID cards and badges. Reaction time drills test Security’s ability to respond to incidents quickly.

“If a situation arose, I think we could handle it very well,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class August Dudley, who has been in Security for three years. “We get a lot of good training and I’m confident that we can handle whatever comes our way.”

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