Aircraft Carriers

USS Gerald R. Ford Aircraft Carrier First Deployment could Slip to 2024

The developmental delays in the new technologies that are included aboard the first-in-class nuclear aircraft carrier have continued to slip Ford’s first deployment date, originally planned for 2018.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the newest US Navy aircraft carrier, may not be ready to deploy until 2024, further complicating the service’s persistent problems of generating deployable flattops from the East Coast.

The developmental delays in the new technologies that are included aboard the first-in-class nuclear aircraft carrier have continued to slip Ford’s first deployment date, originally planned for 2018. The delays are also in part due to the Department of Defense’s decision for Ford to undergo full-ship shock trials before its first deployment.

According to USNI News, the latest news of the later deployment date came on Oct. 22, 2019 during House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing in an exchange between Naval Sea Systems Command head Vice Adm. Tom Moore and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.).

“The original deployment was 2018 and best estimates we’re looking at 2024?” Luria asked Moore during the hearing.
“I think we’ll beat that,” Moore replied. “We’re going to pull back as far to the left as we can, but I think we’re going to beat that.”

As James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition pointed out, the initial estimated deployment date is still under review, pending a decision by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday in consultation with Moore and Geurts himself.

Luria, a former surface warfare officer and guided-missile cruiser executive officer, said Ford is currently a “$13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge.” Moreover she highlighted the ongoing carrier readiness issues at Norfolk that include: the delay in deploying USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) due to emergent electrical problems, the two-plus-year maintenance period for USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the long-extended availability of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) that left the carrier unable to relieve USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in the Middle East and forced Truman into a double pump deployment.

As Luria pointed out currently there are only two yards in the U.S. that are capable of repairing the Navy’s domestic nuclear carriers and that the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan that was supposed to deliver the service the ability to surge forces in case of emergency has been ineffective.

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Geurts and Moore did stress to panel the importance of the Navy’s $21 billion plan to improve the service’s four public shipyards.

They also updated the committee on the ongoing certification of Ford’s electromagnetic Advanced Weapons Elevators. The third AWE has been certified for use, leaving eight more to undergo certification.

Geurts told reporters following the hearing that the issues were largely construction-related and the technology has proved effective.

“We certified now and turned over to the crew three elevators. The fourth one is very close,” he said.

Ford is set to leave Norfolk Naval Shipyard at the conclusion of its post-shakedown availability at the end of the month, and the remaining elevators will be certified over the next 18 months, Geurts said.

USS Gerald R. Ford is the first aircraft carrier to make a significant leap to electrical power, replacing many legacy steam‐powered systems and preparing the ship for future technologies.

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  • The new electrical distribution system increases electrical capacity by 250 percent.
  • An Electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), similar to the system that powers many of today’s roller coasters, replaces steam catapults, enabling a smoother launch for the airwing of the future.
  • Ten million feet of electrical cable is installed on Ford, enough cable to span the distance from Washington, DC to Albuquerque, NM. 
  • Four million feet of fiber optic cable is installed on Ford, the length of more than 7,200 Washington Monuments stacked on top of each other.

CVN 78 is the most efficient aircraft carrier ever designed, reducing necessary maintenance by 30 percent.

  • The ship’s design enables the Navy to operate the ship with less manpower, saving the Navy more than $4 billion over the ship’s 50‐year life.
  • 9,900 tons of air conditioning reduces maintenance caused by humidity and reduces required manning in hot spaces.
  • About 44,000 high‐efficiency fluorescent T‐8 light bulbs will be used, which produce more light and last nearly twice as long.

Photo credit: Erik Hildebrandt / U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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