Aircraft Carriers

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier, the world’s largest warship, ready to deploy

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier, the world’s largest warship, is in shape to deploy five years after its commissioning.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier, the world’s largest warship, is in shape to deploy five years after its commissioning said the officer who oversees the Navy’s carrier program last week.

According to USNI News, Ford quietly reached its initial operating capability in December and has been in workups since completing a six-month repair availability in March following explosive shock trials off the coast of Florida.

“She’s fully delivered now, she’s met her initial operating capability,” Rear Adm. James Downey told USNI News last week during the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium. “She’s fully through the operational threshold.”

Since leaving the repair period, Ford and its crew have been operating at a steady pace off of the East Coast with elements of Carrier Air Wing 8. The crew aboard completed system qualification tests, flight deck certification, three phases of air warfare training, and a Combat Systems Operational Readiness Evaluation that included 11,000 aircraft launches and arrested landings, according to the service.

“Over the last couple of years, she’s spent 250 to 300 days at sea,” Downey said. “That’s coming up on about two deployments [of steaming days].”

The delay for the $13 billion Ford to pull its share of the operational load was in large part due to the integration of a bevy of new technologies that Pentagon leaders required the Navy to include in the new class.

Those included the Electromagnetic Launching System, known as EMALS, for the aircraft, the Advanced Arresting Gear or AAG and the Dual Band air search radar. Those also included the installation of 11 Advanced Weapons Elevators which took several years. The last elevator was delivered in December.

Following the completion of the training and certifications, Ford departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Sep. 16 ahead of an Atlantic training cruise later this year.

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, 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, EMALS, 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 credit: 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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