FIO Assists U.S. Navy with USS Gerald R. Ford’s Full Ship Shock Trials

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – August 9, 2021 – The Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) deployed its 118-foot research vessel, the R/V Weatherbird II, as a Marine Animal Response Team (MART) vessel participating in detonations that supported the U.S. Navy Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST) for its newest aircraft carrier, the CVN-78 USS Gerald R. Ford.

The USS Ford is the Navy’s latest and most advanced nuclear-powered carrier and the FSST ensured the carrier’s ability to handle battle conditions prior to its full deployment by subjecting it to three 40,000 pound explosive charge detonations within close proximity to the ship. This is the first FSST conducted on an aircraft carrier since 1987 (the USS Theodore Roosevelt).

FIO’s Director, Dr. Monty Graham, sailed aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford in June during the first shot, ahead of the R/V Weatherbird II’s MART support. Graham assisted the Environmental Team consisting of a Chief Scientist, a Protected Measures Coordinator, and Protected Species Observers during the initial round of shock testing to ensure the range was clear of protected species, including mammals and turtles.

“The experience of life aboard an aircraft carrier is like no other. More importantly, though, being firsthand advocates for the protection of marine life was our primary focus and I can attest to the priority placed on environmental mitigation plans by the captain and crew of the Ford,” remarked Dr. Graham.

FIO’s role as the state of Florida’s marine science facilitator and enabler includes protecting species that call the state’s rich coastlines home. The R/V Weatherbird II, one of Florida’s two designated research vessels that FIO operates, was contracted to support the Navy throughout the month of July and into early August. During the second and third rounds of the shock trials, the Weatherbird carried a team of protected species observers, experts, and veterinarians on board.

Environmental mitigation measures aimed at protecting marine life spotted within the test areas, from the three 40,000-pound underwater blasts, were carefully followed by the Ford’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Paul Lanzilotta. “Safety was always the driving consideration throughout the shock trials,” said Capt. Lanzilotta in the US Navy’s official press release.

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(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Riley B. McDowell)
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Marine Animal Response Team aboard the USS Ford.
(credit- Dr. Rafael Olivieri, Caird Sextant LLC)
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Dr. Monty Graham, FIO Director, with Dr. Rafael Olivieri, CEO of Caird Sextant, LLC. (credit- Dr. Olivieri)
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Graham aboard the USS Ford (credit- Dr. Rafael Olivieri, Caird Sextant LLC)