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USS Ronald Reagan Hosts DoD Conferees

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

SAN DIEGO, May 4, 2005 – Fifty-four opinion leaders from around the country got a first-hand look at the latest in a long and distinguished line of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and received a personal tour of some of its unique capabilities here April 30.

The participants in the 69th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference -- a Defense Department program that acquaints civilian business, academic and community leaders with the U.S. military - toured the USS Ronald Reagan.

The Reagan is the Navy's ninth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the fleet and the first since the class' namesake, the USS Nimitz, to incorporate major carrier design changes.

In welcoming remarks, the ship's commanding officer, Navy Capt. Jim Symonds, said the Reagan is not only an "engineering marvel, but (also) a critical piece of America's arsenal in the global war on terror. The many new features that make it unique in its class also make it the most capable carrier in the fleet."

The Reagan towers 20 stories above the waterline, displaces 97,000 tons with a full load, and is nearly as long as the Empire State Building. Propelled by two nuclear reactors that can operate for more than 20 years without refueling, the Reagan's expected length of service is more than 50 years.

Traveling up several stories to the 4.5-acre flight deck on one of four high-speed aircraft elevators, the group learned about some of the features that make the Reagan unique.

For example, the flight deck has one fewer arresting gear engine than previous carriers, and has three arresting wires rather than four. This, officials explained, allows for more space on the flight deck for other essential equipment with no loss in capability. The arresting cables can stop a 28-ton aircraft going 150 miles per hour in less than 400 feet.

The Reagan's flight deck can accommodate 80 aircraft and land them at 45-second intervals.

The JCOC also learned about the carrier's four catapults, which enable the crew to launch and recover aircraft rapidly and simultaneously. Catapults 1 and 2 have been dubbed "Thunder and Lightning" by the crew, and catapults 3 and 4 are known as "Fire and Ice."

Then it was up to the Reagan's state-of-the-art primary flight control station, or "pri-fly," which provides a 270-degree view of all aircraft on deck and within the carrier's airspace. The pri-fly's larger, expanded panorama ensures better visibility of operations and better control of all of the precise actions on the fight deck, which in turn creates a safer work environment for the crew, officials said.

Also new is the carrier's large bulbous bow, similar to that of commercial tankers, which results in increased list, speed and stability.

JCOC participant John O'Connor, chief executive officer of J.H. Whitney Investment Management, said he was very impressed by what he had seen, not only on the USS Ronald Reagan, but also at every stop of the weeklong tour of U.S. military facilities.

"At every stop, we are seeing men, munitions and machines. Each service is characterized by one or more core competencies, but all of them are about perfecting people as warfighters," he said.

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