That’s plane ex­hil­a­rat­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - DEFENDERS - RACHEL RI­LEY

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.”

Air­craft op­er­a­tions aboard USS dur­ing Ex­er­cise Tal­is­man Sabre. Pic­ture: WESLEY MONTS

Ronald Rea­gan

USS Cap­tain Michael "Buzz" Don­nelly.

Ronald Rea­gan

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