Thursday, November 12, 2009

George Washington Stays Mission-Ready with MISSILEX

A NATO sea sparrow missile is launched from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) to intercept a Tactical Air-Launched Decoy during surface-to-air defense training. George Washington is underway supporting security and stability in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rachel N. Hatch/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) John J. Mike, USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At sea (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) successfully completed a test of its NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System (NSSMS) during an at-sea missile exercise (MISSLEX) Nov. 8.

George Washington launched the defensive, surface-to-air missile at an unmanned Tactical Air-Launched Decoy (TALD) during the training exercise, aimed at keeping the ship's weapons systems mission-ready.

"To launch a missile, GW (George Washington) has to meet a lot of operational requirements and it's not something we can do every day," said GW Combat Direction Center Officer Cmdr. Peter Walczak. "The ship was in a situation where we could have this training opportunity and we jumped at it."

The MISSILEX was based on a real-life scenario, which involved a simulated enemy aircraft flying a direct route to the ship.

"MISSILEXs are thoroughly planned and we treat them as an actual evolution," Walczak said. "The missile fired would have been the same one used in a real situation."

Although it takes mere seconds for the missile to actually launch, hours of precautionary checks are involved prior to a MISSILEX.

"The FC's (fire controlman) job is to make sure the shipboard defense systems works properly, so we have to take every step necessary to make sure all safety checks have been made," said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Keith Simpson, GW's NSSMS leading petty officer.

According to Simpson, MISSILEX first involves a simulated firing scenario, in which a computer ensures the missile will follow its desired path. Then, the launcher itself is checked to see that it has the ability to follow the target.

While FC's play a critical role in a MISSILEX, teamwork between departments made the evolution possible.

"Nothing is autonomous on GW. Some of the Sailors involved were in Operations Department, while others were in Combat Systems Department," Walczak said. "But, by sharing information we worked in conjunction to make sure the mission was accomplished successfully."

GW is currently participating in ANNUALEX 21G, a yearly, bilateral exercise between the U.S. military and the Japan Self Defense Force.

Commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, GW is the flagship of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GW CSG), which is commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan. GW departed its forward-deployed port of Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan Oct. 6 on its second fall deployment as the Navy's forward-deployed carrier presence.