That’s plane exhilarating
IF YOU’VE ever wondered what it’s like to be fired out of a cannon, a catapult take off from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, America’s flagship vessel, would be similar.
A contingent of Townsville media had the rare opportunity to land and take off from the aircraft carrier last Friday.
Following a two- hour flight aboard a Grumman C- 2 Greyhound ( a twin- engine cargo aircraft, designed to carry supplies, mail, and passengers to and from US aircraft carriers) we spotted the mighty ship in international waters east of Rockhampton.
Harnessed inside the C- 2’ s steel shell you get a 20- second warning before you’re either almost thrown back through your seat or almost to the seat in front of you on takeoff and landing by the three- g force or what feels like a hit from a front- rower on the footy field.
The plane decelerated from 200km/ h to zero in just a few seconds and is even faster in reverse for the catapult takeoff.
Ordered in 1994 and commissioned in 2003, the Japanbased nuclear- powered USS Ronald Reagan is home to 5000 personnel with an average of just 22.
They are among 30,000 in the biennial coalition Exercise Talisman Sabre alongside other US, Australian and New Zealand naval vessels.
At Reagan’s helm is Captain Michael “Buzz” Donnelly who said his ship was the only forward- deployed aircraft carrier in the US Navy operating from the Indian Ocean to the International Date Line and north and south of the equator.
“There is a lot to keep us busy whether it’s exercise or operations with our friends and allies or real world operations … this job never gets old,” he said.
The ship can carry more than 70 aircraft and has the ability to send or retrieve fighter jets at the rate of one a minute.
The on- board amenities are some of the best sailors could hope for with more than 18,000 meals a day, but Capt Donnelly quashed rumours there was a McDonald’s.
“The closest we have is a coffee kiosk which serves frozen drinks and different flavoured coffee, much like a Starbucks, but that is about the extreme,” he said.
Capt Donnelly said despite the exercise, his crew never lost sight of the need to be “real world capable” and to be called upon at a moment’s notice.
“This is the pinnacle and we are the best at what we do, I think,” he said.
“We have an immense capability and an exercise such as Talisman Sabre allows us to not only practise and validate that … but also take that to the extreme and evaluate where we’re going to take our tactics into the future.”
Midshipman Matthew Jackson, stationed aboard one of Australia’s flagships HMAS Canberra, said the sheer size and scale of the Reagan was overwhelming, with the Canberra only able to carry up to 1500 personnel if elements of the Australian Army are on board.
“Watching fighter jets fly off this ship every day is something incredibly insane to watch,” he said.
“They have a lot more manpower than what we have and it’s really interesting to watch how all those moving parts work seamlessly together.
“I got lost for the first two weeks, not going to lie.
“I walked around in a daze for a while.”
Rear Admiral Charlie Williams said Exercise Talisman Sabre had proven to be very dynamic so far in proving the interoperability between the coalition forces.
“Every time we do this we manage to find we can become more brilliant at the basics and also improve our operational skills,” he said.
“Both nations ( US and Australian) have at our heart the core interest to maintain peace and stability. That’s our focus on a daily basis.”