THE wow factor moment of visiting the USS John C. Stennis, one of the world’s biggest aircraft carriers, has to be just stepping onto the flight deck and gaping at all the incredible fighter aircraft.
This was the case for a handful of visitors from the Defence Ministry, corporate guests and members of the media who were invited for a tour of the USS John C. Stennis by the US Embassy recently.
The USS John C. Stennis is the seventh of 10 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarriers in service to the US Navy; currently the biggest class of aircraft carriers in service worldwide.
As the ship was located in the South China Sea, some 120 miles off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, guests were flown to the ship in a C-2 Greyhound transport aircraft and got to experience the rapid deceleration of an arrested landing.
According to USS John C. Stennis commanding officer Capt Gregory Huffman, the carrier was on a normal scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific as part of a strike group that includes one cruiser, several destroyers, and about 65 aircraft of varying types.
“When we are in port, we usually open the ship up for tours and bring tour groups on board, but we also bring some groups out here to see our operations because it is more fun to see it out here when we are actually doing things,” said Huffman.
The tour group was given the opportunity to stand on the carrier’s 333m-long flight deck and watch a squadron of F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters rapidly take-off and land in 45-second intervals during their daily airborne operations.
They were also shown around some of the ship’s vital areas, including the navigational bridge, carrier air traffic control centre, flight deck control, and hangar.
There was also a small museum aboard that served as a tribute to the late Senator John C. Stennis, who was best known for his contribution to the development of the modern US Navy.
With more than 5,000 sailors working in different roles aboard the ship including medical officers and cooks, the USS John C. Stennis is nothing short of a floating city.
“Tours like this one have been done periodically over the years, and it was part of the regular partnership between the United States and Malaysia,” said US Embassy deputy chief of mission Edgard Kagan.
In addition to joint training exercises with the local defence forces, the US Navy frequently lends its aid for search and rescue missions, disaster relief, as well as community service when they call at port.
The USS John C. Stennis deployed from the United States in January and is scheduled to operate around the South China Sea until August.
The ship has made stops at Guam, South Korea, and Singapore so far, with its next destination being Hong Kong.