The US Navy’s most expensive ship ever, aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), arrived at Huntington Ingalls Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, July 14 to begin its post-shakedown availability (PSA) period.
The PSA will be a yearlong maintenance and upgrade period after the ship operated at sea for 81 days through eight independent steaming events.
During this overhaul, Gerald R. Ford, HII will install remaining combat systems, complete deferred work and correct remaining discrepancies identified during sea trials and shakedown. The longest sequence of events, or “critical path” for this PSA/SRA period are advanced weapons elevator construction and advanced arresting gear upgrades.
Following the PSA/SRA, USS Gerald R. Ford will conduct further trials and testing, including full-ship shock trials, prior to its first deployment. The ship will work up for deployment in parallel with its initial operational testing and evaluation.
The overhaul work follows the ship’s successful completion of its post-delivery test and evaluation.
Since first getting underway on her own power April 8, 2017, Ford has undertaken 10 underway evolutions and completed all of the testing required prior to beginning the PSA.
“My team has completed a very important phase in Ford’s lifecycle,” said Ford’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Richard McCormack. “The shakedown period was an opportunity for the Navy to run the ship through a rigorous set of operational tasks and assess her performance.”
“We now enter a post-shakedown availability period to incorporate several design changes to correct performance deficiencies and complete the installation of other systems needed to ensure the ship, her embarked airwing and the strike group are ready to support national tasking when called upon by the president.”
During the underway Ford sailors tested fleet’s first shipboard electromagnetic aircraft launching system (EMALS). Ford’s Air Department, combined with the efforts of Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding and Naval Air Systems Command Joint Test Group, successfully executed complete system testing events for all 13 redesigned aircraft launch and recovery equipment weapon systems, including the first 747 shipboard landings – the first coming only six days following the ship’s commissioning – utilizing the advanced arresting gear (AAG), against a plan of approximately 400.
Ford’s Operations Department synchronized with Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3), CVW-8, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic, Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Atlantic, and numerous PMS-378 test organizations to complete 454 mishap-free rotary and fixed-wing sorties and 1,173 flight hours. The crew also executed 25 air defense and surface tracking exercises, the initial structural test firing of the close-in weapons system (CIWS), and all development testing of the integrated combat system.
Another notable system that separates the ship from her Nimitz-class predecessors is the Navy’s first Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System (PAWDS), which allows Ford to dispose of trash in an environmentally safe manner. Ford’s Engineering team oversaw major developmental milestones, including the safe installation, integration, and operation of the system. Overcoming system challenges consistent with any ‘first’ system, the engineering team’s efforts resulted in system improvements, serving to increase overall system availability from less than five percent to more than 90 percent.