The Navy's Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier is continuing to face challenges as the lead ship moves into post-delivery test and trials.
Designed to replace the service's current Nimitz-class ships, the new platform has faced a litany of issues that have delayed the program since the USS Gerald Ford, CVN-78, was ordered in fiscal year 2008. The carrier uses the same form as the Nimitz-class for the hull but incorporates new systems so it can generate more aircraft sorties per day with a smaller crew. The first four ships in the class include the Ford, John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), Enterprise (CVN-80) and Doris Miller (CVN-81).
Robert Behler, the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation, said in his fiscal year 2019 annual report that the carriers are continuing to experience problems with systems such as the catapults, arresting gear, weapons elevators and radar. Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the prime contractor for the program.
"Reliability of these critical subsystems poses the most significant risk to the CVN-78 [initial operational test and evaluation] timeline," Behler said in the report.
The Navy's schedule for the program is "aggressive" and continues to slip, the report stated. Planned ship availability was extended, pushing initial operational testing to fiscal year 2022 and first deployment to fiscal year 2023.
In July 2018, the ship entered post-shakedown availability after eight independent steaming events at sea. The service needed additional time to work on repairs, leading it to extend the phase by three months to October 2019.
William Couch, a spokesperson for Naval Sea Systems Command, said the ship "continues to progress in a series of rigorous test events to demonstrate the effectiveness of the ship's combat system in self-defense."
The carrier is slated to finish ship self-defense testing in 2023.
"To date, the Navy has conducted more test events on USS Gerald R. Ford than on any previous aircraft carrier," he said in an emailed statement. "Compared to Nimitz-class ships, USS Gerald R. Ford is equipped with significant updates to its integrated combat system."
During post-delivery test and trials, the service is certifying fuel systems, conducting aircraft compatibility testing, exercising the flight deck and testing the on-board combat systems, he said. Combat system ship qualification trials are scheduled for 2021 and additional developmental and operational...