The United States Navy is testing whether its latest and greatest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is ready to take on the trials of war. To do this, the Navy is detonating explosives near the ship in order to make sure it can handle the kind of events that may be encountered during an actual war. The explosions were strong enough to register as small earthquakes.
Construction on the USS Gerald R. Ford kicked off back in 2005, marking years of work and steady progress up until the vessel replaced the USS Enterprise in late 2012. The USS Gerald R. Ford was officially commissioned in the summer of 2017 and will likely participate in its first deployment in 2023 or 2024.
The explosive test took place last week near the Florida coast, though it won’t be the last of these tests. Called a Full Ship Shock Trial, the event was intended to demonstrate that the new ship can withstand these kinds of blasts when in combat. Three blasts involving 40,000-pound detonations will be conducted as part of this trial.
The next two tests will take place at some point this month and in July, with the precise dates depending on factors including marine mammal activity and weather. Though the Navy told Defense News that it scheduled this explosion to comply with “environmental mitigation requirements,” critics say the magnitude of the detonations can cause death and serious injuries to sealife nearby.
Though the explosion took place around 100 miles from Palm Coast in Florida, the USGS says the detonation was recorded as a 3.9 magnitude earthquake at the coastline. According to Marine Mammal Protection Project director Michael Jasny in a statement to The Guardian, the US Navy typically uses “much smaller” explosions as part of these tests, raising concerns over the impact of these human activities on the environment.