USS Gerald Ford elevators have suffered reliability issues due largely to software problems. To date, only two of the elevators meet Navy standards.
Unforeseen problems in repairing USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will push delivery of the carrier back to the fleet by three months, into October, Navy officials told a House Armed Services Committee panel on Mar. 26, 2019.
The initial 12-month post-shakedown availability (PSA) was designed to fix any problems that arose during the carrier’s first at-sea period, when the crew works the ship hard to help identify any problems in construction, as well as to tackle any work that the Navy and shipbuilder agreed to bump from the construction period to PSA. The carrier had planned to conduct a one-year PSA, then work up with its crew and deploy in 2021.
The new delay is due to more time needed to repair Ford’s nuclear propulsion system and Advanced Weapons Elevators, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts told the HASC’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee.
“All three of those causal factors – making the adjustments to the nuclear power plant that we noted during sea trials, fitting in all of the post-shakedown availability workload and finishing up the elevators – they’re all trending about the same time,” he told the committee. “So, October right now is our best estimate. The fleet has been notified of that. They’re working that into their train-up cycle afterward.”
Problems with the elevators are well-known. The Ford class was designed to increase the aircraft sortie generation rate by 25 to 30 percent over the previous Nimitz-class of nuclear aircraft carriers, and Ford’s 11 weapons elevators were key to that effort.
However, the elevators have suffered reliability issues due largely to software problems, USNI News understands. To date, only two of the elevators meet Navy standards. The second elevator was delivered earlier this month.
Problems with the propulsion system are less understood publicly. The problem isn’t resident in the two nuclear reactors aboard but rather the ship’s main turbines generators that are driven by the steam the reactors produce.
Sources familiar with the extent of the repairs have told USNI News two of the main turbine generators needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls. As Geurts told Congress, the ship’s company discovered the problem during sea trials.
In May, Ford returned to port early after it suffered an engineering casualty during an underway ahead of the PSA.
“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” Colleen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Navy Times at the time.
The Gerald R. Ford-class is the future aircraft carrier replacement class for Enterprise and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The Gerald R. Ford-class will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation. Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers and carrier strike groups will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance. The class brings improved warfighting capability, quality of life improvements for our Sailors and reduced total ownership costs.
Improvements aboard Ford will be carried forward to the next two carriers of the FORD Class: John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and Enterprise (CVN 80). Each ship in the new class will save nearly $4 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life, compared to the Nimitz-class.
U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released
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