US Navy’s lead Ford-class aircraft carrier gears up for its first deployment by fall

According to the latest report published on the US Navy’s Gerald R. Ford Carrier Program, the lead ship of the new Ford-class, USS Gerald R. Ford, is expected to be deployed by fall 2022.

The ship’s first deployment was delayed by a need to complete work on its weapons elevators and correct other technical problems aboard the ship. The US Navy officials noted that the ship’s first deployment will occur by the fall of 2022, more than five years after it was commissioned into service.

“The plan is toward the end of the summer, she goes,” Rear Adm. James Downey, the program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said. “She’s going to visit multiple theaters of operations with multiple allies, and her strike group, and her wing.”

The 11th and final advanced weapons elevator (AWE) aboard the aircraft carrier was installed in December 2021. The main goal of the new weapons elevator was to improve the rate of weapons movement on the ship from magazines to the topside and visa-versa, commonly referred to as strike-up and strike-down.

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Furthermore, AWEs on this aircraft carrier operate using several advanced technologies including electromagnetic motors vice more labor-intensive, hydraulic systems.  The technology enables fewer sailors to safely move ordinance from weapons magazines to the flight deck with unparalleled speed and agility, according to the company.

The construction of USS Gerald R. Ford began in August 2005, the keel was laid in November 2009, and the aircraft carrier was christened in November 2013. The vessel completed its final shock trials in August 2021.

As explained earlier, the aircraft carrier withstood the impact of three 40,000-pound underwater blasts, released at distances progressively closer to the ship.

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On 10 September 2008, the US Navy signed a $5.1 billion contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, to design and construct the carrier.

Photo: US Navy photo of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway in the Atlantic Ocean in August, 2017