US Navy’s first Ford-class aircraft carrier declared operational

The first ship of the new US Navy’s Ford-class aircraft carriers, USS Gerald R. Ford, has been declared operational, according to the information provided by the ship’s program manager Capt. Brian Metcalf.

The initial operational capability (IOC) was reached in December last year when the 11th and final advanced weapons elevator (AWE) for the aircraft carrier was delivered.

Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has delivered the final advanced weapons elevator after lengthy delays caused by development, installation and delivery problems. 

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On 29 March, the ship completed its Flight Deck Certification (FDC) and Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) certification.

Once out to sea, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2D Hawkeyes, and MH-60S Nighthawks assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 conducted operations to prove the ship’s and crew’s capabilities.

To achieve certification, Ford conducted more than 400 day and night catapult launches and trap recoveries. Prior to getting underway, Ford’s air department was evaluated on its ability to respond to flight deck emergencies and firefighting.

“Flight deck certification is a significant milestone in preparation for our first deployment,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s Commanding Officer.

“We have more tests and evaluations to complete during our next underway periods, and I have no doubt that our Sailors will rise to the challenge and accomplish the mission.”

Ford will head underway again this month for additional milestone events that will prepare the ship for a scheduled deployment later this year.

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 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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Photo: US Navy file photo of USS Gerald R. Ford