USS Abraham Lincoln’s American Flag Got Tangled-Up In Its Radar As It Left On Deployment (Updated)

The USS Abraham Lincoln started a historic deployment, the first-ever involving an American carrier with a female captain, on January 3rd.

byJoseph Trevithick|
SPY-6/EASR photo


We often report of the increasingly gargantuan flags Navy ships fly when entering or leaving port. While they look amazing and are a great source of morale and pride for crews, apparently, at least in some cases, they can also cause some issues if their deployment doesn't go just right. A video has emerged showing that the U.S. Navy's Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln had an unusual incident of sorts as it left San Diego, California on Monday. The ship's crew can be seen hoisting a large American flag over the carrier's island. Before it gets all the way up on the line, it gets tangled up with the vessel's rotating AN/SPS-49 radar.

Our friends over at @WarshipCam on Twitter posted footage of the incident, seen below, which came from user @cjr1321, earlier today. Lincoln sailed out of San Diego on Jan. 3, 2022, on what is a historic deployment, the first-ever in Navy history involving a carrier commanded by a female officer. Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt became the ship's commanding officer in August 2021. It's also the first carrier deployment of Marine Corps F-35Cs. 

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The video shows the basics of what happened relatively clearly. As the flag began to be raised, the radar's feed horn snags it. As the radar continues spinning, the flag progressively wraps more and more around its base. The spinning eventually stops, though it's not clear if the flag was physically preventing it from doing so or if it was shut down. 

The AN/SPS-49 is one of a number of radars installed on Nimitz class carriers and is a two-dimensional, long-range L-band air search type. It is a complement to the ship's AN/SPS-48 three-dimensional, long-range E/F-band air search radar.

The video below shows the AN/SPS-49 on the decommissioned Iowa class battleship USS New Jersey, which is now a museum ship.

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It's unclear if there was any significant damage or other impacts from this incident. In the video, the radar is seen still stationary as the carrier passes into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California, but it is hard to see if the flag is still wrapped around the base. The AN/SPS-48, which had been rotating earlier on, is also stopped at that point. Powerful military and even some civilian ship radars are often switched off as a general rule when close to shore due to safety and health concerns. The War Zone has reached out to the U.S. Navy for more information about exactly what occurred.

One reply to @WarshipCam's posting of the video on Twitter pointed out that if the flag was not eventually raised as the carrier left port that this might have raised concerns among any particularly superstitious sailors on board.

Regardless, the Navy's Nimitz class carriers are to set to eventually receive an upgrade to their radars that could eliminate any possibility of this incident repeating itself. These ships are expected to receive Raytheon's new, vastly more capable AN/SPY-6(V)2 Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) in the coming years, which will replace their AN/SPS-48 and possibly the AN/SPS-49, as well. You can read more about the capabilities of the EASR, which is an advanced active electronically-scanned array (AESA) type, here.

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Hopefully, the flag incident was resolved quickly and without issue and Abraham Lincoln has been able to have an otherwise uneventful start to its historic cruise.

Update 1/10/2022:

The U.S. Navy's Third Fleet has now provided the following statement to The War Zone regarding this incident:

The flag was untangled and Abraham Lincoln remained fully mission capable.

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