NORFOLK, Va. – Lieutenant Philip Riggs is the main propulsion assistant on the USS Ramage, a guided missile destroyer home-ported here at Norfolk Naval Base. In 21 years of Navy service he has been assigned to six ships and on seven deployments.
On a Friday morning in mid-February, Riggs and his assistants are busy finalizing preparations for a weeklong training cruise to begin in three days. At the top of the list is a five-minute test run of one of Ramage’s four General Electric gas turbine engines – modified versions of the same jet engines that power the DC-10 and 737 commercial jet aircraft. On the runway these engines are huge noisemakers; in Ramages engine room they are enclosed in insulation, and a five-minute test run doesn’t interrupt conversation. Lt. Riggs says that in the open sea with all four engines running at full power, the noise level is not much higher.