What Is Happening to This Aircraft Carrier?

The U.S. Navy just released this stunning photo of sailors participating in a flight deck scrubbing exercise aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), a Nimitz-class supercarrier that is currently undergoing sea trials. But what the hell are they scrubbing? Is the carrier caught in a blizzard?

No, that is not snow. In this exercise, sailors are cleaning up a metric assload of what's called AFFF foam, a fire suppressing foam commonly used aboard aircraft carriers. The foam smothers the flames by cutting off the oxygen supply. Handy stuff to have on a deck full of missile-packing planes—when one of those catches fire, the only feasible way to extinguish it is to push it off the deck and into the ocean. This is not preferred, so containing fires is a big deal

The problem with AFFF is that it's slippery as all getout, so it has to be cleaned up before the deck can be used to launch or land planes—which is, after all, the whole point of an aircraft carrier. Needless to say, this has to be done quickly, and hence the drill you're seeing in this photo. There are more scrubbing photos on the Carl Vinson Facebook page.

(Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Iain L. Stratton/U.S. Navy)
Special thanks to Giz alum, former US Navy ensign, and generally awesome guy JD Levite for the background info.