US military ‘shock trial’ explodes 20-tonne bomb near new 'Gerald R Ford' aircraft carrier

The blast next to the 'Gerald R Ford' registers as a 3.9 magnitude earthquake

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The US military has detonated a 20-tonne bomb next to the new Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier, blasting the ship with the equivalent force of a 3.9 magnitude earthquake.

The blast – comparable to 100 modern depth charges exploding simultaneously – dwarfed the 100,000-tonne vessel.

The test was what the US Navy calls a “Full Ship Shock Trial,” and ships are not considered ready for combat without one.

US Navy vessels are packed with sensitive equipment, connected by millions of feet of cable – in the Gerald S Ford's case, 14 million feet of electrical connections.

Everything from communications equipment to infrared sensors could be damaged by a blast shockwave and even the operation of the ship’s A1B nuclear reactor could be affected by explosive shockwaves if it was in combat.

In the case of the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 4,460 components were monitored during shock trials in 1994, according to a US Navy report.

"The US navy conducts shock trials of new ship designs using live explosives to confirm that our warships can continue to meet demanding mission requirements under harsh conditions they might encounter in battle," the US Navy said.

"The first-in-class aircraft carrier was designed using advanced computer modelling methods, testing and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship."

The US Navy was also keen to point out that the massive explosion could have affected less than battle-shock-proof marine life, and that precautions had been taken to ensure the test, “complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area".

Now that the shock trials are complete, the aircraft carrier will be assessed for damage, and the navy has set aside six months for "modernisation, maintenance, and repairs". After that, it will be ready for deployment across the globe.