On Aug. 8, 2021, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully conducted a third explosive event off the coast of Jacksonville, FL, marking the completion of the ship’s Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST).
According to a news release by Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers Public Affairs Shock Trials validate a ship’s shock hardness and ability to sustain operations in a simulated combat environment using live ordnance. During the four-month testing evolution, the first-in-class aircraft carrier withstood the impact of three 40,000-pound underwater blasts, released at distances progressively closer to the ship.
“The Navy designed the Ford-class carrier using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ships are hardened to withstand harsh battle conditions,” said Capt. Brian Metcalf, manager for the Navy’s future aircraft carrier program office, PMS 378.
“These shock trials have tested the resiliency of Ford and her crew and provided extensive data used in the process of validating the shock hardness of the ship.”
Metcalf said that the goal of the tests is to ensure that Ford’s integrated combat systems perform as designed and added “the tests demonstrated—and proved to the crew, fairly dramatically—that the ship will be able to withstand formidable shocks and continue to operate under extreme conditions.”
CVN 78 is returning to the Tidewater area for a six month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA). As the PIA begins, teams will conduct additional detailed inspections, assess any damage sustained during the shots, and continue modernization and maintenance work in advance of workups for the ship’s deployment in 2022.
Rear Adm. James P. Downey, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, who rode the ship during the first and third shock evolutions, says:
“We’re designing and building these aircraft carriers to sail in some of the world’s most contested security environments. So when you think about the threats to warships posed by non-contact blasts and the number of sea mines in the inventories of navies around the world, the gravity and consequence of these shock trials really come into focus. The Navy’s ongoing investment in the design, including this modeling, will help ensure the resiliency of Ford’s integrated, mission critical systems in underway threat environments.”
The U.S. Navy has conducted FSSTs over several decades, most recently for the Littoral Combat Ships USS Jackson (LCS 6) and USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) in 2016; as well as on the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) in 2008, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in 1990, and the guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) in 1987. The last aircraft carrier to execute FSST was USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in 1987.
The next generation of aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford-class (CVN 78) was ordered in September 2008 as the force structure replacement for USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which inactivated in 2012.
The Gerald R. Ford-class is the future aircraft carrier replacement class for Enterprise and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The lead ship, Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), was commissioned in 2017. The class brings improved warfighting capability, quality of life improvements for our Sailors and reduced total ownership costs.
The CVN 78 is designed to operate effectively with almost 700 fewer crew members than a CVN 68-class ship (which features 5,000 crew members). Improvements in the ship design will also allow the embarked air wing to operate with fewer personnel. New technologies and ship design features are expected to reduce watch standing and maintenance workload for the crew. Gerald R. Ford is the first aircraft carrier designed with all electric utilities, eliminating steam service lines from the ship, reducing maintenance requirements and improving corrosion control. The new A1B reactor, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and Dual Band Radar (DBR) all offer enhanced capability with reduced manning. The Gerald R. Ford-class is designed to maximize the striking power of the embarked carrier air wing. The ship’s systems and configuration are optimized to maximize the sortie generation rate (SGR) of attached strike aircraft, resulting in a 33 percent increase in SGR over the Nimitz- class. The ship’s configuration and electrical generating plant are designed to accommodate new systems, including direct energy weapons, during its 50-year service life.
Photo: The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully completes the third and final scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Aug. 8, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Novalee Manzella)
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