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Navy to Begin Repairs on USS Ford

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

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On Jan. 16, aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford departed from the Norfolk, Virginia-based Naval Station to begin various onsite rehabilitation, post-delivery testing and trials.

Since the $13 billion first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years has been continuously plagued with problems, delays and cost overruns, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has launched a “Make Ford Ready” initiative to correct the issues.

“While this is an 'all hands on deck' priority that can only be accomplished through the dedicated efforts of the Ford team, it will also require broad, department-wide encouragement, enthusiasm and support for our shipmates and industry partners who will be heads down on the tasks at hand,” Modly said in a statement.

“We all have a stake in the success of this effort—for the future of our Navy, our national security and security of the world.”

Ford-Class Carrier Design & Issues

As reported by Defense One, to get an idea of the size of the carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford has been described as having the same size flight deck as its Nimitz-class predecessors (over 1,090 feet), but with roughly an extra half-acre worth of space. However, Ford has a smaller island—which holds the bridge, radars and various communication antennas.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On Jan. 16, aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford departed from the Norfolk, Virginia-based Naval Station to begin various onsite rehabilitation, post-delivery testing and trials.

The extra space is achieved using the vessel’s various munitions elevators and NASCAR pit crew-recommended refueling point placement within the flight deck, reducing the length of gas hoses.

“We’re light and designed light and we’re designed to have excess capacity in our power generation to bring future weapon systems on board,” said the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. J.J. Cummings.

Toward the front of the flight deck are electromagnetic catapults, which are reportedly quieter than traditional steam catapults. Whereas beneath the deck is where the sailors’ environment is located, complete with operating equipment, arresting gear and numerous technologies.

One of the biggest issues reported to be affecting the vessel is its new weapons elevators. As of the end of January, only four of the 11 total elevators were reported to be in working order. Apparently, this issue has resulted from the incorrect installation of elevator parts and guide rails, enabling the elevators’ use of magnets. When in working order, the elevators are slated to lift 12 tons of bombs and missiles—twice as much weight as the Nimitz-class fleet.

However, the correctly constructed elevators have already completed nearly 6,000 cycles.

Additional issues on the ship include using the vessel’s new technology, which is reported to cover new catapults, elevators, arresting gear, as well as practical items like the trash disposal and Bluetooth-equipped kitchen ovens.

C. Michael Petters, President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries, the shipbuilder responsible for delivering the new carrier, also reports that his firm has resolved issues with 19 of the advanced technologies introduced on the ship, while remaining issues can be pointed to possibly software or wireless communications.

"We actually had a path that said, 'Let's go; we are going to knock this out of the park,' but then as we saw the last of those technology issues, we came to understand that the things that we understood about tolerances in fabrication needed to be adjusted," Petters said.

"And what that did, when you go back and insert that into the schedule, that drives the schedule out. That is the romance of lead ships, that there is a try and fail, try and fail, try until you get it right."

What’s Happening Now

Over the next 18 months, the vessel will be deployed at sea roughly 50% of the time, while crews work to repair the elevators and master the ship’s 20-something new progressive technologies. The USNI News adds that the latest round of testing will aid further improvement from its previous post-shakedown availability at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.

Already, reports indicate that the aircraft compatibility testing has been conducted on Ford’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems and Advanced Arresting Gear. In addition, the first arrestment and launching of E-2D Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, EA-18G Growler and the T-45 Goshawk aircraft have also been completed.

According to Military.com, Modly has set the following milestones for the USS Gerald R. Ford:

  • End of March 2020 – The Navy will complete aircraft compatibility testing, and by the end of the following quarter, will obtain Flight Deck Certification;
  • Summer 2020 – The carrier's manning levels will support all planned operations for key events and deployment;
  • End of Fiscal Year 2020 – Two more weapons elevators—Lower Stage Nos. 5 and 1—will be completed so that access to magazines is enabled;
  • July 2021 – The vessel’s combat system is slated to be tested and certified; and
  • End of March 2022 – The Navy is planning to deliver the necessary parts to allow the carrier to deploy.

However, Moldy adds that the overall goal for the milestone timeline is to complete all work ahead of schedule so that the USS Gerald R. Ford can achieve its original 2021 maiden deployment date.

“The Ford-class carrier is the future. It is a phenomenal ship designed to deliver increased capability for the carrier air wing of tomorrow,” said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday.

“While good progress has been made over the past several months, together we must keep Ford headed in the right direction—and get her where she needs to be—operating forward at sea to reassure allies, deter adversaries, and protect our national interests around the world.”

   

Tagged categories: Government; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Ships and vessels; U.S. Navy

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