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US Navy starts an earthquake to see how its newest carrier withstands combat conditions
Who are they expecting to fight? Thor? Godzilla? Sea snails?
Following the recent decision by the United States Air Force to assassinate four snails and 90 giant clams in the name of missile research, the US Navy obviously felt that it, too, should be doing something faintly bizarre with its shiny, expensive equipment.
So on Friday, the Navy took its newest aircraft carrier, the 100,000 tonne USS Gerald R Ford, parked it in the Atlantic Ocean 100 miles (160km) from the Florida coast and subjected it to an enormous explosion (see video below).
The detonation was part of what the US Navy describes as a Full Ship Shock Trial or FSST, which is supposed to check whether a vessel can withstand combat conditions and deal with near misses during wartime.
The Gerald R Ford is the first of a new class of US Navy carrier that is planned to eventually include 10 vessels, so it received the dubious honours of undergoing the trial on behalf of its future classmates, as well as being the first aircraft carrier to be blown up by the US Navy since the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 1987. Friday's blast was intended to be the first of three trial detonations.
Other US Navy ships to have been subjected to huge explosions in this way include the guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (1987), the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (1990), the amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (2008), and the Littoral Combat Ships USS Jackson and USS Milwaukee (2016).
The explosion reportedly used 18 tonnes (40,000 lbs) of explosives, which created a blast large enough for the US Geological Survey to record it as a 3.9-magnitude earthquake.
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The Navy said in a statement that the shock trial had been conducted "within a narrow schedule that complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area."
While this may not have fully prevented the blast from harming local wildlife, it is certainly an improvement on the USAF's efforts to target individual animals with hypersonic missiles.
Despite being the USN's newest carrier, having only been accepted in 2017, this is not the only peculiar test the Gerald R Ford has been involved in. Before it was even commissioned it was filmed firing trucks into the James River from its berth at Newport News Shipbuilding in 2015.
These unruly shenanigans were a trial of its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System catapult, a new system used for launching aircraft from its flight deck. (Be aware that the sound and pictures do not line up in the video below.)
Presuming it survives the three-explosion FSST test programme, the USS Gerald R Ford is scheduled to go into dock for six months of maintenance and repairs shortly afterwards, although it is not clear how much of this will be due to it having just been subjected to three earthquakes. ®