By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Vlahos, USS Wasp Public Affairs
USS WASP, At sea. (NNS) -- For various reasons, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) has not deployed since 2004. But after a highly successful combat systems ship qualification trial (CSSQT), Wasp has sent a clear, concise, and concussive message to the fleet: She is back in the fight.
After completion of a successful CNO availability at BAE shipyard in November 2014, Wasp's outdated combat systems were upgraded with the ships self-defense system (SSDS). With that fact in mind, the CSSQT proved to be a key gauntlet for Wasp - she had to show that she was fully qualified in surface and air defense, on a system never before used onboard.
"The last two years have been all about maintenance, including time in dry dock," said Capt. Kurt Kastner, Wasp commanding officer. "Many of the crew have never been underway in Wasp. We have a newly installed combat system and ship's network that will take the crew some time to train on. We also have a very compressed schedule with basic phase events, flag officer high interest port visits, and the joint strike fighter operational testing. Any one of those issues alone would be challenging, but we have to face all of them."
According to NAVSEAINST 9093.1C, Combat System Ship Qualification Trials for Surface Ships, the purpose of CSSQT is "to verify and validate that an individual ship's combat and weapon systems have been installed correctly and can be operated and maintained in a safe and effective manner."
Wasp did exactly that, passing each test with flying colors.
The first phase of CSSQT ran from January 12 through February 6. During the first phase, Wasp focused on in port maintenance, as well as training the combat systems crew with the battle force tactical trainer (BFTT). The BFTT wraps around the ship's combat system and simulates actual combat scenarios to train the operators on the ship's defense systems. During the second part of the first phase, Wasp was able to complete a simulated missile exercise in order to prepare for the real thing.
The second phase of CSSQT was where Wasp's Sailors truly got their hands dirty. This phase, which ran Feb. 17-20, included a tracking exercise in which Wasp tested her air detect, track and engage capabilities, and a gun exercise in which her close-in weapons systems (CIWS) were tested.
This past week, it was show time. Wasp was ready to break out the big guns.
In order to show she was ready for prime time, Wasp had to engage a minimum of one surface target with each of her CIWS mounts and MK 38, 25mm gun mounts, in order to qualify in surface defense. Also, Wasp had to successfully fire a minimum of one RIM-7 NATO Sea Sparrow missile and one Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) from each of her launchers to fully qualify in air defense. As an extra added attraction to air defense, Wasp needed to engage two TDU targets with each of her CIWS mounts. Finally, Wasp had to prove that she was capable of recognizing threats in order to qualify in electronic warfare. As a result of these successful engagements, Wasp was found fully mission capable in combat systems operations.
"Shooting missiles on an amphib ship is not something we do often, so to see four in one day is awesome," said Kastner. "Seeing missiles launch and hit their targets proves our combat system is reliable."
If any lingering questions existed as to Wasp's warfighting capabilities, the success of the missile and gun engagements made it crystal clear that she is back in the fight.
Wasp is scheduled to undergo flight deck qualifications for the remainder of her current underway, and she is scheduled for well deck qualifications during her next underway, all of which will set Wasp in motion for a 2016 Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group deployment, the first in over a decade.
"It's our duty and privilege to return Wasp to fighting condition and prepare the ship for the upcoming deployment," said Kastner. "From what I have witnessed and experienced on the deck plates, this crew is up to the task. The crew onboard now had nothing to do with decisions that were made ten years - or longer - ago that took Wasp out of the deployment rotation. We are now the ones who will bring the ship back into the rotation and we are scheduled to deploy in the summer of 2016. It's going to happen."