A group of engineers from the Naval Architecture and Engineering Department at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division drove nearly 3,000 miles to Naval Base San Diego to perform calm-water trials on USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) in April.
The test, which is part of the Performance and Special Trials (P&ST) program for the class, was managed by Carderock engineers. Test results will be used to develop baseline performance information for the class to support safe and efficient operation. The trials included evaluations of powering, fuel consumption, tactical, maneuvering and machinery performance. The P&ST program for DDG 1000 also includes two phases of testing in heavy weather, which focuses on evaluating mission operability and crew and ship safety.
Initial performance trials for DDG 1000 began in December 2018 with the first round of calm-water testing, which focused on lower-to-moderate ship speeds. Both phases of the calm-water trials were conducted near San Clemente Island, close to the ship’s homeport of San Diego.
“The testing is performed under benign environmental conditions with calm seas and low winds,” Senior Trials Director Stephen Minnich said. “San Clemente Island is just offshore from San Diego, and we take advantage of its lee to shield the ship from as much of the prevailing wind and wave environment as we can.”
On March 27, Minnich received a call from the Zumwalt-class Destroyer Program Office (PMS 500). He was asked to conduct a calm-water trial, which was initially scheduled for later in 2020. A test team was established on short notice including Minnich, naval architect Doug Griggs, electrical engineer Brian Chirozzi and computer engineer Tim Rancourt from NSWC Philadelphia Division. Unlike the 2018 calm-water trial, engineers were now focusing on the ship’s high-speed performance.
Since the COVID-19 Pandemic has forced state-wide lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, traveling presents some difficulty. However, Navy personnel are considered essential employees, so the team debated the safest way to get to San Diego. The team concluded that driving a rental vehicle – a 12-passenger van – was the best option to avoid the potential danger of contracting the virus.
“We made a collective decision, from a safety perspective, not to fly commercial,” he said. “Our priority was to limit our exposure, so we determined that driving cross-country was preferable in that we would have more control over potential infection than in an airport or onboard a plane.”
The traveling engineers faced a race against time after it was learned that any test rider from outside the ship’s homeport would have to self-quarantine in San Diego for at least 72 hours before going aboard.
“We were racing against the clock,” Minnich said. “We left the following Wednesday morning and we had to be checked into our hotel by Saturday morning. To get there in time, we drove three days straight for about 15 to 16 hours each day and arrived in San Diego late that Friday night.”
During their quarantine in the hotel, the team was impacted by the new Navy requirement to wear face-coverings if they were unable to maintain more than six feet of distance between one another.
“All of the ship riders and crew were required to wear face-coverings, because when you’re in a shipboard environment, you are in close quarters with many people,” Minnich said. “We were in this challenging situation, because we were in self-isolation, but we also needed to obtain face-masks. Luckily, the wife of one our team members sewed us some masks and sent them via Priority Mail.”
Carderock and NSWC Philadelphia Division also provided support to the team of engineers by sending hand sanitizer, gloves and facemasks, all of which are a luxury during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Help from both commands was much appreciated,” Minnich said. “We were stuck in a situation where we were not supposed to go out in search of that gear – because of our self-quarantine – and of course all of those supplies are limited in general, but we were able to persevere with the help of many folks back home.”
After a month’s long journey – including about 6,000 miles of driving – Minnich and his team returned home to West Bethesda, Maryland, on April 28.
“We were able to complete all of the planned testing, which was a huge win. The ship was able to support everything we were testing, and it enabled us to finish all the calm-water test conditions for the ship, which is a major milestone,” he said.
Minnich also praised the team’s overall preparation, which he believes enabled them to be successful in their mission on the West Coast.
“What allowed us to be so successful with this test was the extensive planning and preparation,” he said. “One of the things we did, given all the travel restrictions and changing policy, was to prepare detailed test procedures that the crew could utilize to conduct the trial in case we could not make it out there. Translating our normal procedures into a way that a Sailor, who has no prior experience of our testing, could understand and execute was a nice win that came out of the planning effort.”
After receiving positive feedback from the crew aboard DDG 1000, the test team expects to incorporate similar planning strategies and procedures for future test events.