US Navy completes USS Gerald R. Ford nuclear propulsion plant rectifications

USS Gerald R. Ford at Newport News in March 2019. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy has announced that repairs to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s propulsion plant have been completed at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.

As revealed by the navy, the aircraft carrier’s propulsion plant was re-delivered after more than 12 months of maintenance and repairs as part of the ship’s post-shakedown availability (PSA).

Troubles with Ford’s propulsion system were first noted while conducting trials at sea in January 2018, when the crew identified a component in the propulsion train that was operating outside of design specifications.

HII-NNS determined that the issue was due to a manufacturing defect (not improper operation) in the propulsion train component that affected the same component in the other propulsion trains.

In May 2018, three days into a planned underway to continue testing and evaluation, the ship experienced another propulsion plant issue associated with a design modification which resulted in Ford returning to homeport. Once in Norfolk, adjustments were made and the ship returned to sea later that month.

Ford returned to port June 7, 2018, following the completion of all required ship testing during its at sea period. During these tests, the navy and Newport News Shipbuilding determined the required steps to correct the manufacturing defects would be fully corrected during Ford’s PSA.

Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the nuclear reactors themselves, the navy said. The issues resided in the mechanical components associated in turning steam created by the nuclear plant into spinning screws that propel the ship through the water.

Since first getting underway on April 8, 2017, Ford has conducted 10 underway evolutions and has completed all of the testing that was required prior to beginning the ship’s PSA last summer. The navy said the lessons learned, corrections, and design changes would be integrated in the construction of the next ships in the Ford-class of aircraft carriers.

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