USS Ford completes upgrades in preparation for first deployment

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Gerald R. Ford leaving the Newport News shipyard at the end of his six-month overhaul (HHI photo)

Posted on March 2, 2022 at 4:38 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive







USS Gerald R. Ford has taken several important steps toward its first deployment scheduled for later this year, five years after the delivery of the first next-generation aircraft carrier to the United States Navy. Reports indicate that the carrier, which had problems during its preparations, has now completed its modernization and maintenance, with successful sea trials and its next generation systems fully functioning. She has been officially transferred from the construction team office to the in-service program office as her crew prepares for final training and testing before deployment in fall 2022.


Ford is five years behind schedule for her first scheduled deployment with the Navy, admitting she had “painful teething problemssome of which were to be fixed during the final six-month shipyard period known in Navy parlance as “planned incremental availability.” Ford was commissioned in July 2017, two years behind schedule and a $2 billion over budget, and since then the Navy and its industry partner teams have been working to complete the next-generation systems and resolve identified issues during the prolonged shakedown. Among the widely publicized problems are bearing failures, failures of her first electromagnetic launch catapults and arresting equipment, and her electromagnetically-operated weapon elevators, which were not working when she was delivered and have suffered breakdowns during the shift. -commissioning process.


The first-in-class aircraft carrier arrived at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. in September 2021 for maintenance and upgrades after completing three crash tests over the summer of 2021. In addition to planned repairs after the shock tests, the Navy reports that work ranged from updating the galley to upgrading the ship’s Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) system, an upgraded shipboard computer system that consolidates multiple legacy networks.


At the start of the shipyard program, crews carried out detailed inspections, assessing potential damage sustained during the crash tests. The Navy had last conducted crash tests on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 1987 and used these results along with other models and simulations to estimate the potential impact of explosive events on Ford.


Ford only required 20% of the repair work we saw with Theodore Rooseveltsaid Rear Admiral James P. Downey, Program Manager for Aircraft Carriers. He added that of the necessary repairs related to the impact tests, about 85% were completed by the ship’s strength, as opposed to work that had to be completed by the shipyard.




Ford left the shipyard on February 25, 2022 for sea trials following her maintenance and upgrades (USN photo)



Modernization work on the new class of aircraft carriers reported by the Navy has been streamlined, compared to work on the Nimitz-class ships. Fordfor example, reconfigured command and control spaces accommodate new technologies without the need to cut bridges and overhead.


“Historically, about 40 percent of modernization work on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers is done in a tear-off, which involves cutting and welding,” Downey said. “The Navy has specially designed Ford with a flexible infrastructure, you can therefore integrate new capabilities to improve system integration that facilitate immediate operational gains for the warfighter.


One of the key milestones reported by the Navy is that four months into the shipyard’s program, the ship’s eleventh and final advanced weapons lift was completed and handed over. This marks a milestone for one of the ship’s most complex new technologies, which was not operational at the time of delivery. Nine months ago, reports said only seven out of 11 were online despite efforts by the Navy, including hiring a team of outside advisers and allocating an additional 18 months for a post-commissioning shakedown. .


Three other Ford-class aircraft carriers, John F Kennedy, Business, and Doris Miller, are currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding. The Navy reports that it is incorporating lessons learned, including crash tests, to further strengthen the Ford-class follow-on ships.


After conducting sea trials off Virginia, Gerald R. Ford sailed home to Naval Station Norfolk, where the crew will begin several months of training and certification in preparation for the ship’s first deployment in fall 2022. Upcoming milestones include system qualification testing, training air warfare, flight deck certification, and combat systems operational readiness assessment.





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