Category Archives: Ships

USNS Comfort- The Hospital Ship of the U.S Military

Along with the USNS Mercy, the USNS Comfort is the largest hospital ship of the U.S military. What is a hospital ship? A hospital ship refers to a hospital or medical treatment facility on the seas. As they are built to serve in and near war zones, most hospital ships are operated by the military. This includes the USNS Comfort which is operated by the U.S military. Since the only purpose of hospital ships is to tend to the injured and sick, attacking them is considered a crime. Now that we’re done discussing what hospital ships refer to, it’s time to turn our attention to the subject at hand i.e. the USNS Comfort.

USNS Comfort Hospital Ship
USNS Comfort on route to Haiti

Understanding USNS Comfort

To date, the USNS Comfort of the U.S military has treated over a hundred thousand patients. When it comes to size, the USNS Comfort is a beast. The height of the ship is equivalent to a ten-story building and its length sizes up to three football fields. At all times, the USNS Comfort has seven hundred medical personnel on board. Furthermore, it encompasses twelve operating rooms and five thousand units of blood. The USNS Comfort is a medical and military marvel since it has over thousand beds, medical labs, radiological services, twelve fully equipped operating rooms, optometry labs, burn care and physical therapy, dental services, intensive care units, pharmacies, two oxygen factories and CAT scan.

How the USNS Comfort serves humanity

The USNS Comfort brings relief to thousands of people affected by natural disasters by joining hands with volunteers belonging to non-governmental medical organizations. History is full of events where the USNS Comfort brought relief to the people of the world. Most notably, the USNS Comfort played significant roles in treating and bringing relief to people affected by Hurricane Katrina, the Southeast Asia tsunami and the Haiti Earthquake.

The good thing about USNS Comfort is that it does not carry any offensive weapons. After all, the purpose of the USNS Comfort is to bring relief to people and not attack them. Also, there isn’t any need for the USNS to carry any weapons since the Geneva Conventions explicitly state that attacking hospital ship is a war crime punishable by law. Although the USNS is operated by the U.S military, the medical personnel on board are all civilians who often take help from volunteers belonging to various NGOs.

Apart from performing medical treatments on the ship, the crew of the USNS Comfort set up temporary medical sites on shore. After setting up the medical sites on shore, the crew provides medical supplies to people affected by war or natural disasters. The staff of the USNS Comfort work tirelessly each day and thus needs to be fed well. This is the reason this hospital ship of the U.S military is equipped with a state of the art kitchen and has master chefs who prepare delicious cuisines for the seven hundred medical personnel on board. For all the aforementioned reasons, the USNS Comfort is a prized asset of the U.S military.

USS Zumwalt Class Destroyer -The Stealth Master

In the year 2013, the United States Navy was blessed with one of the stealthiest ships known in the history of mankind – the USS Zumwalt Class Destroyer. The ship is named after the Vietnam War hero, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt. Right now, the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is undergoing its sea trials and is scheduled to be commissioned in Baltimore in October 2016.

The future of USS Zumwalt Class Destroyer and its role in the US Navy remains to be seen; however, the reason this ship has become the topic of discussion is because of its outstanding characteristics. Bath Iron Works certainly outdid themselves by giving this ship a catlike stealthiness. Let’s discover some of its other features:

About the Ship:

The USS Zumwalt, or as it is more commonly known by its technical name, the DDG-1000, is a high-tech warship. This ship has a net worth of $3 billion. The reason it is called a destroyer is because it has dual characteristics; defensive and offensive. It also has the capability of destroying missiles and can work in all kinds of missions; Individual ones or through collaborating with different groups.

At the moment, the ship is going through various demonstrations and sea trials. Yet, it is expected to become completely operational by the year 2019. While one destroyer is completely ready, the other one is also on course to completion and the construction of the third destroyer also in progress.

The Built Of the USS Zumwalt DDG-1000:

The reason that we said DDG-1000 is defensive is because of its Dual-Band Sonar Radars, which can detect any number of submerged mines in the sea and will help in giving a heads up to the crew during any attack – especially ones that would be too close to the shore.

The USS Zumwalt Class Destroyer is about 600-ft in length and being high-tech, runs on the electric drive system which not only makes this ship swifter, but also less noisy than its diesel counterparts.

Features That Set Zumwalt Apart:

The reason that the Zumwalt is considered one of the stealthiest ships is because of its powerful sensors and SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar. It allows the ship to detect any danger from far away. The structure of the ship is also super convenient; it contains various apertures and a low-key profile. Since the ship is large, it can also hold aerial vehicles, like 2 MH-60R or 3 Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, along with 1 MH-60R.

This electrical power driven ship is equipped with AMI (Advanced Induction Motors) for generating power and IFTP (Integrated Fight through Power) for integrating it.

How Stealthy is the Zumwalt Class Destroyer?  

History might not have seen a ship as covert and sneaky as the DDG-1000 – and that is saying something, considering its hulking size. Even during normal test trials, it is so difficult to hide it that the crew uses giant reflectors to warn other ships of its presence. What makes it interesting is the fact that not only is its own radars super high-tech, but it also has the ability to hide its presence from other ships. So, another crew might be picking up signals of a few fish vessels when on coming close, they’ll discover this giant mammoth of a ship looming over them.

For now, 3 Zumwalt-class destroyers are being prepared and by the year 2019, they will be fully functional.


Ford Class Aircraft Carriers

To say that the USS Nimitz class of aircraft carriers (10 in all), along with the firepower of their support ships are awesome would be an understatement. The Nimitz class aircraft carriers are the largest warships in the world, each designed for 50 year service life with one midlife refueling, which is done at Newport News, Va and all have completed the refueling process.

The Navy is currently bringing on a new class of carriers that will practically dwarf the Eisenhower and Nimitz class of ships.

This is the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier class.

Although this class will also have a 50 year life cycle as well, there is an estimated savings of over $4 billion. Designated with hull number (serial identification number given to a ship), CVN 78 for the first ship, it will have 700 less crew, but have the ability to work as efficiently as the CVN 68 Nimitz class.

USS Gerald Ford Class Aircraft Carriers
USS Gerald Ford on the James River (Public Domain)

Some of the new technologies and advancements for the CVN 78 class are Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) and Dual Band Radar (DBR). In addition, a new Bechtel AIB reactor will be in place.

Few know that some military ships still rely on steam power in some of its sections. This includes the CVN 68 class, which uses steam-powered catapults to launch their aircraft; however, the Gerald Ford class is all electric, from top to bottom, providing greater efficiency and less maintenance requirements and improving corrosion control. Specifically, using electricity to catapult the aircraft surpases a current weight problem with the current Nimitz class. By using electromagnetic induction to catapult the planes,  more power is provided as well as the unit itself is reduced in size.

Two reactors will be installed on each Ford-class carrier, with each A1B reactor capable of producing 300 MW of electricity, compared to the Nimitz-class reactor which produces only 100 MW.

Self-Defense systems have been improved. The Ford class, as well as the new Zumwalt class destroyers use the electronically scanned array (AESA) system. Efficiency in technology allows the radar antenna system to be reduced from six or ten antennas to a single six-faced radar antenna.

Raytheon has been one of the primary contractors for this, as well developing the Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM), which is also onboard the ships and which is a defensive anti missile system that can intercept anti-ship missiles.

The bottom line is that the Gerald Ford class will have  improved warfighting capability over the Nimitz class.

Gerald R. Ford class General Characteristics
Builder: Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va.
Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts.
Length: 1,092 feet
Beam: 134 feet, Flight Deck Width: 256 feet.
Displacement: approximately 100,000 long tons full load.
Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
Crew: 4,539 (ship, air wing and staff).
Armament: Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling Airframe Missile, CIWS.
Aircraft: 75+.
PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79)

Naval Ships

Besides the obvious (military armaments), there are other distinctions between Navy ships and commercial ships. Naval ships are constructed with stronger materials in order to withstand attacks. These ships are also designed not for luxury, but for optimum performance by the ship’s crew to get their jobs completed, whether that be general routine service or carrying out an attack mission.

The classifications for United States Navy ships are as follows:

Aircraft Carrier – Ships that provide ocean airbases in order to conduct combat operations by on board aircraft (planes and helicopters).

Surface Combatant –  Heavily armed ships which designed to engage enemy forces in any of the world’s oceans. This category includes battleships, battlecruisers, cruisers, destroyers and frigates.

Submarine – Underwater vehicles that provide military support and/or attack arsenals against the enemy. Navy submarines can be categorized as attack, nuclear, auxiliary, research and development or nuclear. In the year 2000 , it was the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.

Patrol Combatant – Ships that provide sea keeping missions, with a capability of operations exceeding 48 hours or more without support.

Amphibious warfare – ships that can operate on both on the land and sea.

Support – ships designed to provide general support to the other ships in the high seas.

In order of tonnage (largest to smallest), the classification is as follows:·         Aircraft carrier

·         Battleship

·         Helicopter carrier

·         Battlecruiser

·         Pocket battleship

·         Cruiser

·         Destroyer

·         Frigate

·         Corvette

·         Patrol boat

·         Fast attack craft

Attack Submarines

The main objectives of attack submarines are to seek and destroy enemy vessels but there are significant additional tasks that they carry out as well, including intelligence and reconnaissance.

The Navy has three classes of the attack submarines. The Los Angeles class, the Seawolf class of the new high tech stealth Virginia class.

With 41 Los Angeles class submarines that carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, the navy relies heavily on them for support.

The Seawolf class was commissioned in 1997 and is more technologically advanced than the Los Angeles class. They are quieter, faster and better equipped weaponry, with up to 50 torpedoes.

Seawolf Class Attach Submarine
Seawolf Class Attack Submarine Courtesy US Navy

Of course, the next generation attack submarine class, the Virginia (SSN 774) has incorporated a number of advanced technology that significantly improves its tactical strategy. With a priority on littoral (close to shore) operations, it is able to maneuver in shallow water more efficiently than its predecessors.

New, technical innovations were incorporated over the standard traditional periscopes in most submarines. Two photonics masts that provide infrared digital cameras have been placed on top of the telescoping arms. With the removal of the barrel periscopes, the ship’s control room has been moved down one deck to provide more room and an improved control room layout. Subsequently, this provides the commanding officer with enhanced control and awareness.

The Virginia Class subs are equipped with 87 Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles from each tube.

Together, these three classes of submarines provide the support and intelligence the Navy counts on during peacetime and in the event of war.


Zumwalt-Class Destroyers

From the latest advancements in military technology and design comes the Zumwalt-class destroyers, known as the DDG 1000. They represent a group of United States Navy guided missile destroyers designed with stealth strategy, along with a range of sophisticated weaponry.

Zumwalt Class DestroyersCourtesy US Navy

Designed for land attacks, the Zumwait Class destroyers maintain the following arms:

  • Tomahowk Missiles: Medium to long-range, low-altitude missiles designed to attack a variety of ship or land targets.
  • ESSM (Evolved SeaSparrow) Missiles: Designed for precision attacks in order to avoid collateral damage.
  • AGS 150mm guns
  • 57mm close in guns

This class of ships was named after Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who was the 19th Chief of Naval Operations and served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam War.

These ship’ stealth capabilities are quite intriguing and its reduction in personnel is even more intriguing. Due to its 21st century lighter weight design, about 50 tons of extra weight was removed from the deckhouse, which is the superstructure of the ship. There was also a change in the secondary gun system. This weaponry is used for close-in defense and was originally designed to equip the ships with the Mark 110 57mm gun, but by closer examination, it was determined that the Mark 46 30mm gun system was just as effective; however, they are half the weight and half as expensive.

This new design also took into consideration more moving space for quick transfer of weapons.

Initially, 32 ships were planned at a cost of $9.6 billion for research and development, but the quantity of ships were reduced down to 10 and later to 3.

Regardless of the amount of ships, the efficiency of the Zumwalt-class destroyers makes them a formidable force against the adversaries we currently face and is a welcome addition for the United States Navy.