Our first stop was the bridge, where we met the commanding officers of the HST and its Carrier Strike Group 10. (I’m the guy in the blue shirt in the above slideshow.)
These officers were articulate, obviously bright, yet pleasant and not boastful. They exuded a quiet confidence and competence that would make them, as leaders, easy to follow. They seemed genuinely happy to have the opportunity to introduce us to the Navy.
- Strike Group 10 typically consists of six ships. Besides the carrier, there are cruisers, destroyers and often a minesweeper. Supply ships and other support ships must steam to and from Strike Group regularly.
- I have never seen anything with such a clear and targeted purpose as the HST’s: launching and recovering airplanes. Besides the COD, itself the only airplane of its kind in the world, the carrier carries the E-2C Hawkeye (airborne early warning), EA-6B Prowler (electronic countermeasures), and the F-18 Hornet and Super Hornet (ground attack and air-to-air combat). Weighing in at over 50,000 pounds, the F-18 has a top speed of Mach 1.8 (1,200 mph). When it lands on the carrier, it approaches the flight deck at nearly 200 mph.
- On-board primary operations include the bridge, flight deck, hangar deck, air traffic control center and Combat Direction Center (CDC). A variety of full-service repair and maintenance shops are backed by a city-sized host of support services and living quarters. The ship has 19 departments on board. We saw 18 — all but the nuclear reactor, which is classified.