Associated Businesses -
24 hours aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln
[Written by: Dick Hedahl]
I was privileged to be invited to participate in the program offered
the US Navy to bring people on-board ships in the fleet. This program is
designed to show US citizens what the Navy does with the tax dollars used by the
Navy to defend the United States interests world-wide. The program allows
private citizens to witness firsthand the fantastic capabilities of the modern
I was in a group of 13 who flew on a C2 Navy Turbo Prop cargo plane 100 miles
west of San Diego into the Pacific Ocean to the USS Abraham Lincoln. These
planes only have one window per side, so passengers fly blind and sit backwards
in the plane. The plane hit the deck hard and then decelerated like crazy while
the pilot gunned the engines to full take off throttle – just in case he missed
the catch cable on the deck and has to launch off the deck again to go around.
Wild ride and lots of racket.
We were hustled off the deck and taken to a meeting room below deck to get
briefed on our day’s activities. It was to be fun filled and action packed! But
first stop was lunch. The ship has 10 dining areas aboard. There are 5000 people
who live on this ship during deployment. That requires a lot of food. In fact,
it is the food that makes the ship stop in port. The Lincoln is a nuclear
powered Nimitz class aircraft carrier. As such, it only needs to be refueled
once in its 50 year life. Imagine – this carrier could sail for 25 years
nonstop, if it were not for the needs of the people who run it.
Our afternoon was spent climbing stairs - lots of stairs. Every level has 12
steps to the next level. There are 12 levels above the water line. And when you
climb up, you next have to climb down. I have never climbed so many steps in my
This ship is really a highly sophisticated military machine. The people on board
are working and living in this industrial environment. The passageways are
tight, but comfortable, and the areas are efficiently designed for each of the
tasks required of the men and women who run it. We were told we could take
pictures of any of the areas we toured, except no flash on the deck (distracting
to pilots) and no pictures in the radar control room. It was quite dark in the
control room and the flash there would distract the people operating the
equipment. We were taken to nearly every corner of the ship, except the nuclear
We toured the arms storage level. We saw the Laser and GPS controlled bombs and
missiles. No nuclear weapons and very few unguided bombs are on board. The Radar
room looks like the control tower of a major airport. In fact, that is exactly
what it is. They control the airspace above and around the carrier group. And
they control the 30 some aircraft connected with the Carrier Group.
The hanger deck is three stories tall and bigger than a football field. All of
the aircraft on the ship are maintained in this hanger. Major repairs can also
be performed here. The three elevators that take planes up to the flight deck
are accessed through three huge doors – open to the sea when the elevators are
on the top deck. They are amazing gaping holes in the side of the ship.
The Navy F-18 is the predominant plane on the carrier. It has a Gatling gun in
the nose that can shoot over 4000 rounds per minute. It only holds 587 rounds,
so if it were let loose, the whole belt would be emptied in less than 10
seconds. Of course it would melt down at that point too. The pilot controls the
firing in small bursts. The range of the gun is up to 5 miles.
The statistics of this ship are staggering – it weighs 97,000 tons, travels up
to 34 miles per hour and holds a million gallons of jet fuel. The numbers go on
and on. They consume 600 gallons of milk, 13,000 sodas, 180 dozen eggs and 620
pounds of hamburger each day. The flight deck is 4.5 acres!
Being on deck to witness the takeoff and landing of the F-18’s was a truly
thrilling experience. The crew is capable of launching one F-18 every 30
seconds. That is a rate as busy as Chicago’s O’Hare airport. They also capture
them back on board. The cycle is repeated for every plane on deck 6 times each
day during maneuvers. All of this happens with military precision. And it
happens day and night and in all kinds of weather. When they are in combat, they
cannot choose the conditions, so they need to be ready for anything. The
training the men and women go through is constant and impressive. About 10
percent of the crew is women. The average age aboard ship is under 21 years. The
attitude and commitment of everyone I talked with was impressive. These folks
want to be on this ship. They are committed to their mission. The all-voluntary
military is working well.
This ship is preparing to be deployed to the Persian Gulf in March of 2008. The
deployment will last for 7 months, so next spring and summer you may see news
reports about the USS Abraham Lincoln and its activities in the Middle East.
The most thrilling part of the whole experience was the catapult take off. We
were propelled from zero to 120 miles per hour in three seconds. Remember that
we were facing backwards on the plane when it was launched, so they told us to
put our heads down and grab the straps of our safety harness. The plane shook
before the launch as it throttled up to full take off power. Then – BANG!! – the
plane lurched forward and we were thrown against our safety harness. Hard! It
felt like a kick in the chest by a mule, but it lasted for over three seconds.
It literally takes your breath away. And then – BANG! – again as the plane was
released from the catapult and we were floating free of the launch pressure. We
did soon feel the ordinary airplane flying movements, but it seemed much calmer
at that point.
It was an amazing experience and I can report to you that your tax dollars have
bought a very impressive United States Navy. Some of the pictures on this page
are supplied by the Navy, but most are picture I took aboard the Lincoln. All of
the videos were recorded by me during my experience aboard the ship. Enjoy