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Article and Photography by Britt Dietz | Published on September 19, 2011
After the very long spot check, it was time to continue the TQS (Tiger Qualification Standards) packet which is the sort of 'onboard' scavenger hunt through educational and engaging journeys through the community and operations that make an Aircraft Carrier what it is, in case you're reading this report first. The TQS packet has a lot of questions, and the TIGER's goal is to complete the answers by visiting the various sections of the ship and talking directly to pilots, crew, and officers. The Tiger Qualification Standards (TQS) Packet and the Tiger Warfare wings given out to all Tigers aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln for the Tiger Cruise 2011. - Photo by the Britt DietzThe Tiger Qualification Standards (TQS) Packet and the Tiger Warfare wings given out to all Tigers aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln for the Tiger Cruise 2011. - Photo by the Britt Dietz First up today for the TQS journey was a special section of the ship that I was very interested in, and a special tour of the location just for me because of my photo/graphic and web design background. We headed to the Media Center in the ship, which is basically a giant printing lab, design studio, and broadcasting location for the ship. With a city sized ship out at sea for many months, the ability to produce documents, newsletters, flyers, posters, and more are crucial on board with no contact from online during that time. Rivaling most printing companies with their incredible collection of different types of laser and photo printers ranging from huge poster printers to smaller instant photo makers from digital files (the same types of kiosks you see at your local Target or Walgreens printing counter), this Media Center had everything you'd need to make an army sized newspaper, or in this case a Naval Aircraft Carrier sized one. Just the incredible rows and rows of different types of paper reams were impressive for the ability to print on any type or color of paper. The tour was really fascinating, and made me really want to be a part of this Mass Communications department of the ship, being right up my alley. Rows of computers dedicated to graphic design lined a large very well lit room, with one particular computer sitting off to the side dedicated to printing Top Secret documents. Finally, the tour rounded out in a room dedicated to video productions with video editing computers and other graphic oriented super computers. It was quite the impressive setup all around, and left me slightly drooling at the mouth.

Heading up to what could be called 'Missile Control', we waited in this room that looked like it was out of a 1950s Cold War movie with a lot of huge screens and switches in the Missile Launch and Damage Control center. From there we were given an overview of how the missiles are launched and how radar systems work for the missile systems including actually seeing a radar system activated showing various types of shapes and pings in the area. A MK 29 Guided Missile Launching System with an American Flag painted on the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile covers points outwards towards the sea onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. - Photo by Britt DietzA MK 29 Guided Missile Launching System with an American Flag painted on the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile covers points outwards towards the sea onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. - Photo by Britt Dietz The complexity of these systems and hard training involved is very apparent when you view first hand how long it even takes to flip on certain systems, much less operate them. From viewing how the missiles and systems are launched, we were taken out to various parts of the ship's catwalks to actually see the missile launchers and other ship defending weapon systems. The weather outside had changed once again, and while it was still a bit chilly and a bit moist in the air, the rain had stopped and the clouds were thinner. Sunlight popped through the clouds at times, and a bright diffused light covered everything. First up was the MK 29 Guided Missile Launching System (GMLS), which had very patriotic United States flag covers on them. A weapons specialist went over how the systems work, and how they defend the Carrier in time of attack. Busting through those patriotic covers, the GMLS launcher can launch four RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles that can travel more than 2,600 mph and over 30 nautical miles to its destination. A pretty fascinating system, you can only imagine the power that this relatively small launcher can send out at a moments notice to protect the Carrier. The launcher we were looking at was in the forward starboard side of the catwalks lining the side of the ship. From here, you could get a nice view of the bow of the Carrier as well, as it struck water up in the air as we steamed along in the Pacific Ocean. A rainbow appeared ever so often from the ocean spray as it hit the slight sunlight that would peak through the clouds. The wind was still blowing, which would occasionally send some of the ocean spray up at us in mist form.

Heading back inside the ship, we made our way to the next defense system the ship has, one that has been seen in many movies. Nicknamed 'R2-D2' by sailors, this weapon is just about completely automated with little user interaction and a very powerful defense for the Carrier. If you saw the somewhat recent movie "The Sum of All Fears" in 2002 with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman (part of the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy) you'll remember the scene in the movie where during an escalating tension and misunderstanding between the United States and Russia because of Nazi supporters trying to set the two nations at war, a corrupt Russian officer orders Russian aircraft to attack a US Navy Aircraft Carrier. Tigers and their tour escort view the aft mounted Phalanx anti-ship missile defense system, called a Close-In Weapon System or CIWS as it's most known by and named R2-D2 by sailors. - Photo by Britt DietzTigers and their tour escort view the aft mounted Phalanx anti-ship missile defense system, called a Close-In Weapon System or CIWS as it's most known by and named R2-D2 by sailors. - Photo by Britt Dietz When the Russian aircraft intercept the Carrier and launch missiles at it, this dome shaped machine gun opens fire shooting down many of the missiles as they approach with amazing speed and accuracy. Unfortunately, some missiles do get through to the Carrier, but this amazing weapon is not just another movie make-believe weapon. It's called a Phalanx anti-ship missile defense system, called a 'Close-In Weapon System' or CIWS (pronounced 'Sea-Wiz') for short. Basically a belt fed 6 barreled M61 Vulcan gatling gun that can fire 4,500 rounds per minute at 6,600 feet away with a large radar dome on top. This radar dome, plus the internal radar systems, made incredibly fast calculations tracking the objects and sending them to an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system to figure out if the objects nearing the ship are friendly and then with input from the Carrier's Radar systems and KU-Band radar track the objects. From there, this entirely self contained automated unit then fires the same type of gatling gun that is on the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. The system can track, engage, and then confirm the kill of the object all by itself. Incredible technology that seems like something right out of sci-fi! Most Naval ships have a CIWS system onboard, or several. The USS Abraham Lincoln has three CIWS units onboard the ship, with one on the starboard side, one on the stern of the ship, and one on port. The CIWS systems are scheduled for major upgrades with even more advanced technology in the coming years. After touring the internal radar systems and control center for the CIWS systems (including a view of a mock missile drone that had been hit and torn apart by a CIWS) we went out and got a close look at a starboard side CIWS briefly.

Finally, the last part of the defense systems of the Carrier tour brought us to the very large MK 49 Guided Missile Launching System, a 21 Missile system that launches RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles that can travel speeds over Mach 2 and further than 5 miles away. Tigers check out a MK 29 Guided Missile Launching System and the 21 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles it carries at speeds over Mach 2 from the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier. - Photo by Britt DietzTigers check out a MK 29 Guided Missile Launching System and the 21 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles it carries at speeds over Mach 2 from the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier. - Photo by Britt Dietz Larger than the other two defense systems, this system had it's own platform and a very bight red circle around it indicating the dangers of being near it. Several caution signs adorned the different surfaces of the launcher and along with being bolted to the ground several very thick metal spun wires kept the launcher in place from what I'd imagine to be quite the kick when a missile is launched. The launcher itself was covered with many different shades of color, probably the affect of the sea water on the different materials that make the launcher. Directly above us was the flight deck, just a short ladder upwards where various F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were undergoing engine run-up tests. A F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-34 'Blue Blasters' was fired up almost directly above us doing a low power engine run, the resulting heat could be felt as we stood on this weapon platform and the distorted air from the engine nozzles was clearly visible. It soon became louder and louder as the engine was fired up more, and soon that would mean we'd need cranials for hearing protection, so we left the MK 49 launcher platform and headed inside. Now finished with the different defense systems on board the ship, it was time to see how the radar systems, communication systems, and air traffic control work.

The next set of rooms we'd be heading to were classified and very top secret, with a lot of the systems turned off or in sleep mode so civilians could come in and get a brief tour. Upon entering, I immediately was asked not to touch my camera and leave it hanging on my back instead of my chest; otherwise I'd have to leave it elsewhere to enter. As such, there are no photos I shot of these Carrier Control rooms unfortunately, so I will be as descriptive as possible. First up was the main hub for all Carrier radar and operation systems, the Combat Directions Center (CDC) deep inside the Carrier. It was a very dark room, with most things painted black with many blue lights lighting the otherwise pitch black rooms. A US Navy released photo of the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier Combat Directions Center (known as CDC) room where all the critical operations ranging from surface, air, and sea take place. - Photo by the US NavyA US Navy released photo of the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier Combat Directions Center (known as CDC) room where all the critical operations ranging from surface, air, and sea take place. - Photo by the US Navy In the main CDC room, where the mission control of all combat operations, there was a large screen in the center of the room with a horseshoe shaped consol that had a lot of different computer controls and smaller screens. On the large screen, several different projections displayed everything from live views of the flight deck to radar screens of everything in the vicinity of the Carrier. LCD screens lined walls, and several specialized seats with computer controls and screens right in front of them lined different sections of this main CDC room, many turned off (no doubt classified systems). After getting a brief and personalized tour of this main room from the Tactical Operations Officer (TAO) since we were one of the last tours of the day, we were then escorted to another module of the CDC which was the main communications and radar room called the Decision and Display module. A large map with course directions sat on a high table in the middle of the room and several personally sat staring at screens for possible threats with direct communications and identification computers nearby trying to figure out who is who and what is what. We talked briefly with some of the personnel before finally heading into the last module room, the Zulu module where Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 conducts operational commands with the accompanying Strike Group. Finally, the last mission control area to tour was the ship's on board Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC). Looking like what you might expect to see in a normal control tower at an airport, there were a lot of monitors showing radar with aircraft patterns, landing patterns, and flight paths. This area of the ship will be in contact with the pilots of various aircraft as they come in to land. Once they are within direct landing sight of the Carrier, the CATCC will hand the pilot over to the Landing Signal Officer (LSO). The technology of these different modules and centers were very high tech at times, and yet other times it seemed like old original Nintendo style graphics. The mix of old and new displays was quite interesting to see. This was probably one of the more fascinating parts of the ship, but also the most classified.

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