Monday, October 3, 2011

Alright, who messed with my settings????

During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I had the pleasure of standing Tactical Action Officer on the Mighty Battle Frigate FORD (FFG 54).  The only non-Aegis or non-NTU Cruiser to "shotgun" a carrier. 
For those not in the Navy, the "shotgun" for a carrier is the missile shooting escort assigned to remain in close proximity to your carrier and shoot down any incoming threats.  This duty is normally assigned to the most advanced missile shooters.  During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the most capable were the Cruisers.  It was a great honor to be the lone FFG to be assigned this duty. 

On with the story......

We were performing our duties when our carrier began a high speed run to the southern portion of the Gulf in order to gain sea room to launch aircraft.  We were chasing our carrier at 30+ knots.  Very fast for an FFG.

During this lengthy run to the south, I turned my view from my radar screen for a few moments to go over the paperwork for the next event.  When I turned around all the blips on my radar screen had gathered in the middle. 

Note: The radar screen shows your ship in the center.  So, blips gathering in the middle means ships were gathering in close proximity to us.

My first reaction to this situation was to think someone was playing a trick on me and had changed the scale of the display causing more distant object to appear closer than they actually were.

"Alright!  Who messed with my settings???"

I quickly realized no settings had been changed on my screen.  Objects were as close as they appeared and getting closer very quickly.   One of these "blips" was another carrier. 

Our carrier (going very fast) had just "crossed the T" with the second carrier.  We were following behind our carrier and about the attempt the same maneuver. 

Note to the non-Navy -- Crossing the T is never advisable!  BAD things tend to happen to all involved.  Think racing the train to cross the tracks.  Same principle.

I reached up and quickly asked the Officer of the Deck (the officer in charge of driving the ship.)  He could see the outside world.  I was locked away in a room with no windows.  All I could see where the blips on my screen.   I knew I had to quickly assertain two things.

1.  Would we be able to perform this dangerous maneuver safely? AND more importantly.
2.  Was the Captain of the ship on the bridge overseeing the maneuver?

"OOD, what aspect do you hold on the carrier?  Do you see the left side, right side or are we directly  in front of it?"

Note:   If you were standing on the carrier in question, we were heading from left to right in front of them.  So, the only good answer to this question was he could see the right side.  We would have been over the "train tracks"..  Directly in front would have meant, we hadn't completed the maneuver but it was most like going to be successful and I had no choice but to continue it.  LEFT on the other hand was DANGER WILL ROBINSON!  DANGER!

The OOD answered, "Left"

With this piece of information I knew two things:
1.  We needed to maneuver away from the oncoming carrier.  AND
2.  The Captain was not on the bridge.


As the ship leaned over in the midst of the turn, I heard the Captain race to the bridge. 

Long story shortened......We successfully manuevered, we came very, very close the second carrier but passed behind her.

Morale of the story..... when traveling very fast, keep your eyes on the road and drive defensively so you can live to have another adventure the next day...... But that's another story..