Sea vessels

What Are Full Ship Shock Trials?

A look at why navies conduct these tests and what they achieve.

With the US Navy sharing impressive photos of their aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford undergoing full ship shock trials (FSST), we ask the questions: Why do these explosive tests take place? And what do naval forces get out of them?

What are full ship shock trials?

In a shock trial, a ship undergoes explosive charge underwater detonations which happen successively closer to the ship.

In both June and July 2021, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford underwent these trials, completing them while in the Atlantic Ocean.

The ship faced three underwater explosions, each one testing the ship at different distances, simulating some of the most extreme battle conditions that can be faced on the vessel.

Exact dates for these trials are usually dependent on things like sea state, the weather and marine mammal migration.

Why do full ship shock trials take place?

Navies conduct FSST of new ship designs to confirm that warships can continue to meet demanding mission requirements.

Ships like the USS Gerald R. Ford are designed with this in mind, using advanced computer modelling methods, testing and analysis to give them the ability to withstand such conditions, in theory.

That's all put to the test practically, however, through these trials, with the data received from the explosions validating and confirming the overall shock hardness of the vessel and identifying any vulnerabilities that will need correcting.

These kind of trials are nothing new – historically, they have been carried out over several decades by the US on ships like the Littoral Combat Ships USS Jackson and USS Milwaukee in 2016, on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in 1990, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay in 1987.

They are also not limited to the US, with other navies, including the Royal Navy, conducting tests on their own ships, like the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.