Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) pulled into Oslo, Norway on Wednesday for a port call to the Norwegian capital, according to U.S. 6th Fleet. The port visit for Ford, the embarked Carrier Air Wing 8 and its escorts is the first one in the strike group’s first global deployment. Royal Norwegian Navy Fridtjof […]
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) transits the Oslo fjord for its first port call in Oslo, Norway, May 24, 2023. US Navy Photo
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) pulled into Oslo, Norway on Wednesday for a port call to the Norwegian capital, according to U.S. 6th Fleet.
The port visit for Ford, the embarked Carrier Air Wing 8 and its escorts is the first one in the strike group’s first global deployment. Royal Norwegian Navy Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Roald Amundsen (F311) joined the strike group ahead of the port call. “It is a clear expression of the security guarantees we have through NATO, not least the close cooperation and partnership we have with the United States,” Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said in a Tuesday statement.
“This is Norway’s security.”
The port call prompted comments from Russian officials who have called the carrier’s visit “illogical and harmful,” according to press reports.
“There are no issues in the North that require a military solution, nor issues that require outside intervention,” Russian Embassy in Norway spokesman Timur Chekanov told newswire AFP in a statement. Norwegian press reported that the carrier will operate north of the Arctic Circle. Questions left by USNI News with 6th Fleet were not returned as of this posting.
“Norway is a strategic partner in the continued efforts to maintain a secure and stable Arctic and North Atlantic region that benefits global order,” CSG-12 commander Rear Adm. Erik Eslich said in a Wednesday statement.
“We are committed to our NATO ally and fostering our strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values, experiences, and vision.”
The last U.S. aircraft carrier to operate north of the Arctic Circle was USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) in 2018, according to USNI News’ carrier deployment database. Truman and its escorts were the first strike group to operate in the High North since the end of the Cold War, USNI News reported at the time.
Ford, the air wing and escorts left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., for the deployment on May 2nd and were widely expected to take up station in the Mediterranean Sea following the departure of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and its strike group, which were performing the presence mission that kicked off just ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon for its first global deployment, USNI News has learned. First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) sailed down the James River into the Atlantic around 3:30 p.m., according to ship spotters. The deployment of the Ford CSG will operationalize a new series […]
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) transits the Atlantic Ocean on March 19, 2023. US Navy Photo
The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon for its first global deployment, USNI News has learned.
First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) sailed down the James River into the Atlantic around 3:30 p.m., according to ship spotters.
The deployment of the Ford CSG will operationalize a new series of technologies aboard the carrier, commander Capt. Rick Burgess said in a statement.
“This ship and crew are actively reshaping the face of our Navy’s capabilities and strengthening the future of naval aviation,” he said.
“Our presence at sea throughout the deployment will provide reassurance to our allies and partners that sea lanes will remain open, and our joint operations will demonstrate our commitment to interoperability and maritime stability,” Rear Admiral Greg Huffman, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 12, said in a Navy news release.
The deployment of Ford, its escorts and the soon-to-be embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 comes almost six years after the carrier’s commissioning.
Burgess highlighted the training in the lead-up to this deployment. Last month, the Ford CSG finished its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), which prepared the carrier, its escorts, and air wing for the deployment. USNI News visited Ford during the month-long COMPTUEX that certified the strike group for national tasking.
Staff and units of CSG 12, CVW 8, and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 compose the Gerald R. Ford CSG.
Four ships – guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) and guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS McFaul (DDG-74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) – will escort Ford. Those ships will depart from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., or Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is set to deploy the first week of May following the completion of a series of certification exercises, service officials said on Tuesday. Ford returned on Sunday from its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) that served as a month-long, high-pressure stress test for the carrier, […]
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) transits the Atlantic Ocean on March 19, 2023. US Navy Photo
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is set to deploy the first week of May following the completion of a series of certification exercises, service officials said on Tuesday.
Ford returned on Sunday from its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) that served as a month-long, high-pressure stress test for the carrier, air wing and its escorts ahead of its first world-wide deployment. Carrier Strike Group 4 engineered the test for Ford, Carrier Air Wing 8, its escorts and Carrier Strike Group 12.
While the Navy hasn’t said where it will operate, USNI News understands it will continue the consistent carrier presence in the Mediterranean Sea that the U.S. began in December 2021 ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.
Last month, USNI News visited the carrier ahead of the graduation exercise. The chief test for the air wing was the carrier strike group’s blue water certification, which is the ability for the air wing to safely operate at sea and out of range of a land-based runway.
“She earned all of her certifications and met all the requirements to deploy. She’s designated to deploy the first week of May,” Ford-class carrier program manager Capt. Brian Metcalf said on Tuesday.
“We expect that to be at least a six-month deployment.”
Originally commissioned in 2017, Ford’s entry into the carrier deployment cycle comes after five years of stops and starts related to the new technology designed to improve the number of combat aircraft the carrier can launch and recover over the legacy Nimitz-class carriers.
“Ford-class aircraft carriers introduce 23 new technologies, including Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Advanced Arresting Gear and Advanced Weapons Elevators,” reads a statement U.S. 2nd Fleet issued this week.
“The new systems incorporated onto Ford-class ships are designed to generate a higher sortie rate with a 20 percent smaller crew than a Nimitz-class carrier, paving the way forward for naval aviation.”
The Navy pitched the Ford class to Congress as a 30 percent improvement over the Nimitz carriers’ maximum sortie generation rate of 120 in a 12-hour period. The Navy will wait until after Ford‘s upcoming deployment to test the maximum sortie generation rate, Metcalf said.
“That weeklong final measurement of sortie generation rate will happen after this deployment,” he said.
“She will still deploy on time because we won’t have the long-planned post-delivery timeline that we originally planned for by inserting that work before delivery,” he said.
“We’re basically just rearranging some of the dates between now and the operational deployment.
Kennedy will be the first Ford-class carrier to deploy to the Indo-Pacific and will field the F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.
The next Ford-class aircraft carrier will now deliver to the Navy in 2025, one year later than the service’s most recent projection, according to Fiscal Year 2024 budget documents released this week. The Navy delayed future carrier John F. Kennedy’s (CVN-79) delivery date from June 2024 so the service could alter the ship’s Post Shakedown […]
In this aerial photograph, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) sits at Pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding division. The ship is approximately 76 percent complete and is progressing through final outfitting and testing. Huntington Ingalls Industries photo.
The next Ford-class aircraft carrier will now deliver to the Navy in 2025, one year later than the service’s most recent projection, according to Fiscal Year 2024 budget documents released this week.
The Navy delayed future carrier John F. Kennedy’s (CVN-79) delivery date from June 2024 so the service could alter the ship’s Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) and perform more work during construction, according to the service’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget documents.
“The Navy is implementing a strategy to pull baseline work from the Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) into the construction period in order to provide more capability at ship delivery,” the Navy’s shipbuilding budget books read.
The altered schedule will ensure Kennedy is ready to deploy to the Indo-Pacific, according to the service.
“This approach will prepare CVN 79 as the first FORD class aircraft carrier to operate in the Indo-Pacific region and decrease the amount of time CVN 79 would be required to be at the shipyard after ship delivery to conduct the PSA,” the documents read.
“CVN 79s PSA will align to a traditional period of resolving discrepancies discovered during trials. The revised strategy maintains the overall ‘ready for deployment workups’ milestone for CVN 79.”
In 2020, the Navy switched from pursuing a dual-phase delivery for Kennedy to a single-phase delivery. That decision added two years of work to Kennedy‘s detailed design and construction contract, according to the budget books.
The additional work and schedule are so Newport News can include alterations for the carrier to field the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, and fix issues that the shipbuilder found when building USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), according to the budget books.
“To support the added duration and incorporation of new systems, additional funding is required for engineering and logistics products as well as light off and certification of the new combat system,” the books read.
When Kennedy was christened at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding in December 2019, the carrier was slated for a 2022 delivery. But the Navy at that time was still pursuing the dual-phase delivery plan, in which Newport News would build most of the ship, pause the work, and then install additional systems later.
The goal of the dual-phase delivery was to save the Navy money on construction schedules in the yard while avoiding significant overlap between Kennedy entering the fleet and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) leaving, which would strain the service financially and in manning. The Navy at the time also said it would allow the shipbuilder to install updated electronics onto the carrier. Under the dual-phase approach, Kennedy would have received retroactive modifications for the F-35C after delivery.
But the Navy’s newest aircraft carriers not having the ability to field its fifth-generation fighters angered lawmakers. After Congress mandated that Kennedy have the ability to field the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter before finishing its PSA, the service in 2020 ditched the dual-phased delivery strategy.
“We believe that the single-phase approach ensures the most effective build plan for all remaining work and provides the best value for the Navy by supporting its ability to accelerate operational deployment of this maritime force asset,” Lucas Hicks, Newport News’ then-vice president of new construction aircraft carrier programs, said in 2020.
The Navy then projected Kennedy’s delivery for 2024 as a result of the shift to a single-phase approach. The service continued to project a June 2024 delivery through its FY 2023 budget documents.
ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS GERALD R. FORD IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN – The pressure is high and getting higher for the crew of the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. Since it was commissioned in 2017, the Navy has slowly excised gremlins from close to two dozen new systems aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). After five […]
A sailor handling fuel lines on the deck of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 2, 2023. USNI News Photo
ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS GERALD R. FORD IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN – The pressure is high and getting higher for the crew of the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.
Since it was commissioned in 2017, the Navy has slowly excised gremlins from close to two dozen new systems aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). After five years of faults, troubleshooting and repairs, Carrier Air Wing 8, its escorts and Carrier Strike Group 12 will embark on their first worldwide deployment, joining the fleet in earnest as a fully functional warship.
But before it deploys – likely to the Mediterranean to continue the deterrence mission against Russia – the ship’s company of 2,700 sailors, the 1,500 sailors of the air wing and five surface ships will face a challenge tougher than Congressional criticism.
Last week, the carrier left Naval Station Norfolk on its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX). The complex exercise is the last hurdle before the unit is “certified for national tasking,” or able to deploy throughout the world at the direction of the president via the Secretary of Defense.
While Ford has been underway for systems tests, training, pilot qualifications and international exercises, it hasn’t been ready to take on a full seven-month carrier strike group deployment – arguably the most important and in-demand formation the Navy produces.
As part of the exercise, the carrier crew is working to meet the launch and recover stats of the existing Nimitz class. While an increase of 30 percent in the sorties generation rate over the Nimitz class was the selling point for Ford, the carrier hasn’t hit the legacy benchmark yet.
A F/A-18E Super Hornet with the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 lands aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 2, 2023. USNI News Photo
“It’s sustained combat operations over a long period of time over several weeks, as opposed to just a few days at a time,” Ford commander Capt. Paul Lanzilotta told USNI News last week.
COMPTUEX will be the carrier’s first voyage with a full air wing of about 80 aircraft: four Super Hornet squadrons, an electronic attack squadron, an airborne early warning squadron and two helicopter squadrons.
Ford’s addition to the carrier force deployment cycle is long overdue.
Sailing down the James River to the Atlantic, Ford passed two reminders of why the Navy has little margin of error in its deployment timeline. Nimitz-class carriers USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) are both in separate phases of the massive mid-life overhauls that have taken them out of circulation. George Washington is more than a year and a half late completing its overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding, delayed by COVID-19 workforce shortages and growth in the planned work.
The demand for carriers in no way matches the availability of the hulls. East Coast carriers in particular have endured back-to-back deployments to meet forward-deployed combatant commanders’ demands. Ford’s entrance into the rotation will alleviate the pressure on the 11-carrier force.
After shock trials, for 53 days last year, Ford and its crew embarked on an early operational test, steaming with a reduced air wing while exercising with NATO allies, culminating in a port visit to Portsmouth, United Kingdom. Along the way, the crew and the strike group worked on the basic phases of pre-deployment training, but COMPTUEX will determine if Ford can operate as a warship.
Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 3, 2023. USNI Photo
“This is a brand new first-in-class unique weapon system,” Carrier Strike Group 12 commander Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman told USNI News last week in an interview.
“This is our first real opportunity to put it through more of these high-end training evolutions … We’re looking to work all the basics that a strike group would normally do in terms of communications and operations, but then also incorporate some of the unique characteristics that the Ford-class brings.”
A F/A-18E Super Hornet with the ‘Tomcatters’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 prepares to launch from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 2, 2023. USNI Photo
Over the next month, Norfolk-based Carrier Strike Group 4 will run Huffman’s CSG 12 through three phases of the graduation exercise. The exercise’s increasingly difficult tests simulate the toughest threats the strike group could face.
“They tend to mirror our real-world adversaries,” commander Lanzilotta said. “I would say that they evolve in accordance with our understanding of those adversaries and our understanding of the lessons from the previous carriers.”
Ship leaders gave few specifics on the exercise. However, USNI News understands it will be based on the well-worn “Treasure Coast” scenario. The Treasure Coast exercise involves a series of fictional small countries like Amber Land and Jade Land on the East Coast, each with a complicated relationship with the United States meant to mimic the geopolitical reality the carrier will sail into.
Sailors on the deck of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va., near the Chesapeake Light Tower on March 3, 2023. USNI News Photo
While USNI News was aboard the carrier last week, Ford stayed close to home, at one point making tight circles in view of the seaside hotels of Virginia Beach while the rest of the strike group finished qualifications ahead of COMPTUEX.
During the first two days underway, pilots with Carrier Air Wing 8 operating from Naval Station Oceana finished their carrier qualifications before flying in their F/A-18E/F Super Hornets aboard Ford. The carrier’s escorts – guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) and guided-missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), USS Ramage (DDG-61) and USS McFaul (DDG-74) – were operating elsewhere last week working on their own certifications.
For most of the crew, this is their second sustained period underway following fall’s Atlantic training cruise, which the service had called a “service-retained deployment” and now calls its “phase one” deployment.
“I’m not going to call it a shakedown cruise,” Huffman said. “But it was just a – really an opportunity to get the Ford and the Ford strike group into an operational setting away from what we had been doing, which is operating just mostly off the East Coast.”
During phase one, Ford embarked with a partial air wing and made port calls in Halifax, Canada and Portsmouth, U.K.
“We did a tailored ship’s training availability in October and then November. We took the ship up to Halifax and Portsmouth. It’s kind of a hybrid training scenario for the Navy, we’ve never really done that before,” Ford executive officer Capt. Matt Mulcahey told USNI News aboard the ship.
“Normally, you’d do it just off the coast of Virginia.”
A F/A-18E Super Hornet with the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 lands aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 2, 2023. USNI Photo
Now the training will ratchet up in difficulty.
Perhaps the most important goal for Ford’s COMPTUEX will be to qualify for its blue water certification – the proof that the carrier and air wing can launch and recover aircraft effectively enough not to need a land-based divert field, Lt. Cmdr. Lee Watkins, the operations officer with the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, told USNI News on the ship.
“Bluewater CERT is not easy for a Nimitz class to achieve. It sometimes takes a long time,” he said.
“On the Ford, we have the additional challenge of pilots and flight deck nailing procedures, as well as the newness of the systems that are not quite operating at the same efficiency as a Nimitz-class … It is definitely achievable and it’s going to be a challenge.”
Sorties vs. Sailors vs. Technology
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) off Virginia Beach, Va., on March 2, 2023. Photo by John Morgan used with permission
Ford was sold to Congress based on a 30 percent improvement in sortie generation rate – or how quickly the carrier can launch combat aircraft – over the ships in the Nimitz class.
In 2019, the Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers told USNI News the Navy was pushing for a sustained 160 sorties per 12-hour period as the goal for the Ford class. The Nimitz class rate is 120.
Testing, modeling and the advice of NASCAR pit crews led to innovations like the Advanced Weapons Elevator, which can carry more ordnance faster from the belly of the ship to combat aircraft, as well as fuel drops in the deck to quickly gas planes. The Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS) uses the same technology as modern roller coasters and can theoretically launch aircraft faster than the Nimitz-class carriers. The relatively compact EMALS took up less space in the hull than the old C-13 steam catapults and reduced manning below decks from a dozen sailors to two. The Advanced Arresting Gear replaced the old hydraulic cables that caught incoming aircraft with similar space and crew-saving benefits to EMALS.
“As we analyzed the design, it wasn’t about getting the aircraft to the flight deck,” Rear Adm. Jim Downey told USNI News in 2019. “That wasn’t an impedance to [a] higher sortie generation rate. It was getting the bombs to the aircraft and then the aircraft off the flight deck.”
In 2000, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected the Navy’s plan to introduce the tech by spreading it out over three carriers in the Ford class and opted to put all of the tech on the first ship, upping the integration challenge of the new technology.
Sailors adjust the Advanced Arresting Gear aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 2, 2023. USNI News Photo
EMALS has been singled out by the Pentagon’s weapons testers for failing to meet its initial reliability goals. In its latest testing report, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation saw a failure in about one out of every 614 EMALS cycles – far higher than the target level of once every 4,166 cycles. For its part, the Navy has said it measures the reliability of the EMALS by operational availability, which the service says is about 98 percent for its last 5,400 launches.
The operational availability depends in part on how quickly sailors can troubleshoot the most common faults in the launching system, Navy officials have told USNI News.
“We’ve gotten very good at coming through minor issues. We do not have hardly any catastrophic issues that take us down for extended periods of time,” Ens. Justin Knighton, the aircraft launch and recovery equipment maintenance officer, told USNI News in October.
For example, while Ford launched aircraft last week, USNI News observed about a 45-second pause before the launch of a Super Hornet. One sailor attributed the pause to “overheating.” The fault was cleared and the Super Hornet then launched.
Refining procedures will improve efficiency, the crew emphasized to USNI News.
“We’ve been doing things by the book and so now we’re just kind of figuring out where the system allows us to make things a little quicker,” Lt. Ian Loomis, a catapult officer aboard Ford, told USNI News.
“We’re coming up with new standard operating procedures. It’s going to get us closer to doing those sortie rates.”
Standard operating procedures for repairing or bypassing degraded systems safely are being constantly written and rewritten on Ford.
“The main operational difference is, the Nimitz class has decades of experience operating those systems and all the kinks are kind of worked out,” Watkins said.
An artist’s conception of the electromagnetic launch systems (EMALS). General Atomics Photo
“Ford is still working through some of those things. We’re not quite as efficient yet with aircraft launch and recovery as the Nimitz class, but making strides towards getting there.” Mulcahey said the sailors are still learning the differences between the decades-old procedures of the Nimitz class and the ones for the Ford class.
“The Nimitz is kind of like an old pair of jeans you put on. They’re super comfortable. I know exactly where I am and exactly what I’m doing,” he told USNI News. On Ford, “we have the baseline for how we know we need to operate. Now we’re just expanding that.”
Having the complete air wing aboard Ford will go a long way in improving the efficiency of the flight deck, carrier CO Lanzilotta said.
“We have a different layout on our ship [than Nimitz]. You don’t really find out the nuances until you actually do it. You can use modeling and simulation – and the technical community has certainly done that in the past in the lead-up of designing the ship and then implementing the ship,“ Lanzilotta said.
“We’ve come up with our standard operating procedure based on the technical community’s recommendation. We’re going to refine that. You can’t do that until you do it with all of the airplanes.”
The burden of wringing efficiency out of the system “comes down to people,” he added. “You can talk about technology day in and day out. But the things that make this happen are humans with beating hearts, and they have to come to the ship, they need to operate on the ship.”
“It comes down more in the lane of human performance than a notion of a technology being a magic tool that will get you [a] higher sortie rate,” Lanzilotta continued. “It takes time to do that kind of developmental test and evaluation on those systems. It takes time to make corrections to systems and ensure they’re 100 percent ready to go and that we’re willing to bet our lives on those systems.”
Locations of the Advanced Weapons Elevators aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). USNI News Photo
A bright spot for Ford has been the performance of the Advanced Weapons Elevators. The ship is equipped with 11 high-speed elevators capable of carrying 28,000 pounds of ordnance to the hangar bay and the flight deck. For two years, failure to integrate the elevators was a chief criticism of the carrier. The last elevator was delivered to the Navy from HII in late 2021. Since then the system has been almost faultless, CWO 2 Jeff Towry told USNI News during an AWE demo.
During the fall underway, the 11 elevators had no failures, Towry said.
‘Make The Ship and This Crew Ready’
Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), speaks to the attendees of the ship’s Black History Month celebration in the hangar bay, Feb. 11, 2023. US Navy Photo
Over the next three weeks, the crew will face challenges CSG 4 has dreamed up to test the Ford Strike Group, with a focus on training the sailors and refining procedures.
“They have done a tremendous amount of work to take what was a… new-build ship with all these new technologies and get it underway. It’s a massive amount of effort at the most junior sailor level to get this massive warship, all of the technologies layered on top of each other, to get that underway,” Mulcahey told USNI News.
“They’re writing the books … What are the best practices to operate this equipment? Where can we gain more efficiencies or safety margin?” Lanzilotta said he doesn’t spend much time thinking about the previous issues with the ship or the promises that the Navy and Pentagon made about the carrier’s performance.
“My job here is to make the ship and this crew as ready as it can be today,” he said. “I don’t get too wrapped up in some of the things that have happened in the past.”
First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is back at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., after a 53-day operational period in the Atlantic, U.S. 2nd Fleet announced on Saturday. Ford arrived in Norfolk after returning from a port visit to the U.K. last week and exercises with allied nations throughout the North Atlantic. “The flagship set sail […]
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) returns to Naval Station Norfolk after two months in the the Atlantic Ocean with the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG), Nov. 26, 2022. US Navy Photo
First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is back at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., after a 53-day operational period in the Atlantic, U.S. 2nd Fleet announced on Saturday.
Ford arrived in Norfolk after returning from a port visit to the U.K. last week and exercises with allied nations throughout the North Atlantic.
“The flagship set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, Oct. 4, and traveled more than 9,275 nautical miles,” reads a statement from U.S. 2nd Fleet.
“During the scheduled deployment, Ford operated with eight allies and partners, Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden, to strengthen interoperability, while conducting a range of maritime operations and exercises.”
Major events for the strike group included port visits to Halifax, Canada, on Oct. 28 and Portsmouth, U.K., on Nov. 14. Ford and its escorts also participated in the extensive Silent Wolverine exercise with ships from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands.
“Through integrated and combined operations such as live and inert ordnance expenditure by Carrier Air Wing 8, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and air defense, we set the stage for operating with Ford-class technologies in a deployed environment,” said Ford commander Capt. Paul Lanzilotta in the Saturday release.
”We completed more than 1,250 sorties, expended 78.3 tons of ordnance, and completed 13 underway replenishments.”
Ford took aboard a partial air wing composed of every type of aircraft used on an aircraft carrier. At any given point during the deployment, the carrier had up to 60 aircraft embarked — about 80 percent of a full air wing. Ford also took on more than 1,200 tons of ammunition as part of the underway.
Additionally, the strike group deployed with guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) and guided-missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS McFaul (DDG-74 with Destroyer Squadron 26. In addition, the strike group deployed with the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Hamilton (WMSL-753).
The time at sea was an opportunity to prove systems that were introduced on Ford designed to increase the sortie generation rate of the aircraft carrier. The carrier features the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) are both new systems with software elements that have required extensive testing over the last few years. Also, the Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWE), which has delayed Ford’s ability to deploy are fully operational and were tested extensively.
Now back in Norfolk, Ford and its crew will now prepare for a longer deployment planned for next year, defense officials have told USNI News.
“This deployment laid a strong foundation for the strike group, created momentum to carry us forward for future operations, and has prepared us to answer our nation’s call when needed,”
said Carrier Strike Group 12 commander Rear Adm. Greg Huffman said in the Saturday statement.
Carrier Strike Group 12
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
Carrier Air Wing 8
Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, based on Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., embarked on Ford and includes nine squadrons and detachments:
The “Golden Warriors” of VFA-87 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
The “Ragin’ Bulls” of VFA-37 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
The “Black Lions” of VFA-213 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
The “Tomcatters” of VFA-31 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
The “Gray Wolves” of VAQ-142 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
The “Bear Aces” of VAW-124 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
The “Tridents” of HSC-9 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
The “Spartans” of HSM-70 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.
USS Normandy (CG-60), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
Destroyer Squadron 26 USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
USS Ramage (DDG-61), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
USS McFaul (DDG-74), homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) homeported in North Charleston, S.C.
ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS GERALD R. FORD IN THE VIRGINIA CAPES – After years of delays, the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier is underway on a two-month operational stress test of the carrier’s new systems and air wing as the ship and its crew prepare for an extended deployment early next year. USS Gerald R. Ford […]
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) departs Naval Station Norfolk, on Oct. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo
ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS GERALD R. FORD IN THE VIRGINIA CAPES – After years of delays, the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier is underway on a two-month operational stress test of the carrier’s new systems and air wing as the ship and its crew prepare for an extended deployment early next year.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 4, 2022, will operate throughout the Atlantic, exercise with allies and partners, make a foreign port call and operationally employ the carrier air wing for the first time.
Ford, the first of its class, has a host of new technologies new to the fleet and will have about 60 aircraft aboard at any given time during the service-retained deployment. The ship is taking about 80 percent of a carrier air wing and embarking with every type of aircraft that operates from a carrier.
“Stressing the flight deck, stressing the air wing – in terms of the sorties that we’re able to generate – and then working within the entire strike group construct to make sure that we’ve got all of our ships operating to the max of their capacities,” Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 12, told reporters aboard the carrier last week.
“We haven’t had a chance to really explore in a strike group setting what the Ford is going to bring to the table. And this is our first opportunity to do that and set the foundation for follow-on deployments – not just the Ford, but the entire class.”
The two months at sea will allow the sailors to move into a more operational mindset compared to the last few years of workups and testing, multiple officers told USNI News during a recent trip aboard the carrier.
“Really we’re just coming out to operate the carrier and show what it’s capable of. So we are a fully operational carrier at this point and we are simply attempting to validate and show folks that we are in fact on that footing,” Cmdr. John Peterson, Ford’s air boss told USNI News.
The multi-national cruise will also allow Ford to exercise with eight other countries and prepare the carrier’s crew for real-world scenarios in which it will work with allies and partners.
“I think it’s a good stress [test] in terms of making sure that we can coordinate appropriately as a command-and-control platform. It starts with language. Are we using compatible publications and procedures? Are we just using the English language in a compatible way?” Ford commanding officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta said.
“That goes both ways. My sailors have to speak on the radio in a way that’s standard, enunciated properly and intelligible to a unit that’s operating far away from home in a language that probably most of the crew members did not grow up speaking every single day.”
F/A-18 Super Hornets attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 conduct flight operations on the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), Oct. 8, 2022. US Navy Photo
Ford incorporates multiple new technologies aboard that are meant to make the carrier air wing operate faster and more efficiently. For example, the ship has in-deck refueling to make it easier to fuel aircraft without having to drag hoses across the flight deck.
The carrier also features new technologies for the systems that launch and recover aircraft. The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) are both new systems with software elements that have required extensive testing over the last few years.
“We’ve gone from a very archaic way of catching aircraft per se, with hydraulics, that slowly advance into some electronic upgrades. With this new system, we are able to put less stress on the ship, on the system itself, and on the aircraft,” Ens. Justin Knighton, who is taking over as the aircraft launch and recovery equipment maintenance officer aboard Ford, told reporters in one of the machinery spaces for the Advanced Arresting Gear.
“There’s a lot more sense of reliability as far as being able to recover the aircraft safely, a lot more redundancy. Like I said, just a lot better overall as far as taking care of the aircraft and the longevity and life of the aircraft and the equipment.”
As the sailors have become more familiar with the new AAG system, Knighton said the reliability has improved, but he acknowledged the crew has more work to do to get AAG to where it needs to be years down the road and on future Ford-class carriers.
“Longevity wise we have gotten a lot more proficient. A lot of that has to do with our operators becoming a lot more involved in the systems, having repetition behind the wheel, being able to identify things at quicker levels,” Knighton said. “And then as new software comes out and new hardware changes, kind of take a little step back, it takes us a little time to get used to the new stuff, identify reliability issues and come through them and work with our engineering team up at Lakehurst to develop an engineering change proposal to come through that in the long run.”
The reliability for EMALS, the new launching system that does not use steam like the catapults on the Nimitz-class carriers, has also improved, according to Knighton.
An artist’s conception of the electromagnetic launch systems (EMALS). General Atomics Photo
“As far as proficiency, we’ve gotten very good at coming through minor issues. We do not have hardly any catastrophic issues that take us down for extended periods of time. We do have minor issues here and there that we need to troubleshoot throughout the day. A lot of that is the mass amount of redundancy in sensors that we do have within the system,” he told reporters.
“We’ve done a lot of engineering investigations on parts that we’ve found non-reliable that were supposed to be very reliable in the beginning. We’ve had more robust changes for a lot of those things to make sure that they’re not failing. And things have gotten really good with EMALS, especially in the last I’d say two years.”
While past failures of EMALS have brought down two catapults at once, recent issues with the system have been minor, Knighton said.
“We really don’t have as many high-powered issues that we used to have coming through over 10,000 launches with aircraft. So it’s been less effecting to us as far as if we lose a pair of catapults, which it doesn’t happen very often,” he said.
The Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWE), which delayed Ford’s ability to deploy initially and required extensive contractor work, are now fully operational.
“We are collectively basically 200 percent stronger than the Nimitz class elevators and we run at about 150 percent of their speed. So we’re stronger and faster and able to operate at a much quicker pace than the Nimitz class,” Cmdr. Jim Fish, the gun boss on Ford, told reporters.
The new elevators bring ordnance to the flight deck faster to arm the aircraft. The AWE operates with electromagnetic motors, unlike the cables used for the weapons elevators on the Nimitz-class carriers.
“We were able to run ammo downstairs in the magazines much quicker because we were able to put extra weight on the elevator, able to run it down quicker, which means you have to run those cycles a lot less,” Fish said.
During preparation for the two-month period, Ford’s crew loaded 12,000 tons of ammunition worth about $400 million. It took 1,400 lifts of the elevators over two-and-half days, according to Fish.
“That’s a very good respectable first-time, out-the-gate evolution. That is varsity numbers for our first time and that was absolutely on the work of my sailors here,” he said.
Allies and Partners
German Sachsen-class frigate FGS Hessen (F221), foreground, steams in formation with the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and other coalition warships during a simulated strait transit on Oct. 9, 2022. US Navy Photo
Ford’s two months at sea will allow the carrier and its escorts to work with multiple NATO and NATO-aspiring nations, including Finland and Sweden. During USNI News’ time aboard the carrier last week, German frigate Hessen (F221) was operating nearby.
“This is really a chance to work with a full strike group with almost a full air wing,” Huffman told reporters.
“And then with those allies and partners, to get a good understanding of how the Ford – with its new capabilities – will be able to interact with different ships and perhaps change how we do tactics from a big picture perspective. So that’s what we look to do is just basically explore that new technology and see what kind of operations we can develop out of that.”
Ford will also work with ships and aircraft from France, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands and Canada while at sea this fall. During the next two months, Ford will pass control of air wing assets to the allies operating nearby with the carrier strike group.
“If we suffer a casualty and we need to push something over to another ship – whether they suffer one or we suffer one – our ability for them to immediately and easily and coherently pick right up where we left off, or wherever that unit was that may be temporarily taken out of the fight, their ability to do that, we have to have that capability,” said Capt. Daryl Trent, the commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8.
“And that is one of the strengths of our partners that we’re working together – not only legitimizes what we’re doing but also gives us the capability of, ‘hey we can pass this over to you. We’re going to do some maintenance or troubleshooting on a system. You can take it for now.”
The chance to work with the French Navy is unique because the French and U.S. aircraft can cross-deck between each other’s carriers, Lanzilotta noted. The French carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R-91) uses the same catapults and arresting gear to launch and recover aircraft as the U.S. Nimitz-class carrier.
“Whenever we are in the vicinity of a French aircraft carrier, we immediately start operating together in an interchangeable fashion. That’s true allied operations. I’m excited for the opportunity to do that,” said Lanzilotta.
Room to Grow
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) steams the Atlantic Ocean during a simulated straits transit with the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 9, 2022. US Navy Photo
The lifespan of aircraft carriers – anywhere from 50 to 60 years – means Ford will remain in service as new technologies like unmanned air vehicles and weapons like lasers are introduced.
Multiple officials during USNI News’ visit to Ford noted the carrier has room to grow and evolve with these modernization efforts.
“This ship was built as a new class with a lot of expanded capability but also with margin for more. So while our propulsion plant is new and pushing us through the water at a good pace … the electrical generation capacity of this ship is not even close to being taxed,” Lanzilotta said. “So as things develop in the coming years, as advanced weapons come online from the United States side, I expect those to be able to be installed on the ship whether it’s in a yards period or some other modernization period, and bring our lethality up even higher over the course of the ship’s life, which is 50 … maybe 60 years.”
The carrier’s electrical plant has extra cooling capacity, meaning the Navy can add new weapons like lasers to the ship and install new capabilities during future maintenance availabilities.
“With the room to grow and the fight of the future that may go on, whatever weapons systems they bring on – whether it be self-defense or be offensive to go over the horizon – there’s a lot of spare electric plant equipment,” said Cmdr. Homer Hensy, Ford’s chief engineer.
Ens. Elizabeth Armstrong, strike officer to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60), oversees a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile Exercise while Normandy is underway as part of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, Oct. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo
“The breakers and operations and logic controllers that aren’t quite set in, that we’re just waiting for the time to install those, do a system operability test for whatever the combatant commander needs for over the horizon – whether it be the Pacific Fleet or the European theater,” he said. “Either way we go on there, our public yards are ready to operate through the whole planning yard and to install those systems for whatever period we get to make sure that the ship is ready and most modern to defend [against] whatever the threat is in the future.”
The margin will also help the carrier air wing evolve with new technology and platforms, and incorporate the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II and future unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy’s sixth-generation Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is expected to include a manned fighter, known as F/A-XX, that will operate as the nucleus for the service’s manned-unmanned teaming concept.
“Over time we’re going to go, as a force, we’re going to go to a lot of manned-unmanned teaming capabilities out there. That is the future,” said Trent, the CAG.
“And that is what the ship is built for and is going and there are certainly other systems that they’ve got a lot of growth capability in the future that is absolutely amazing, as we develop our weapons systems to the fight of the future.”
THE PENTAGON — Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will soon leave for a short cruise before heading out on its first deployment next year under the Defense Department’s global force management system. The upcoming cruise will take the first-in-class Ford throughout the Atlantic Ocean and will include a foreign port call, Ford commanding […]
Sailors assigned to the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 conduct an ammunition onload, Sept. 25, 2022. US Navy Photo
THE PENTAGON — Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will soon leave for a short cruise before heading out on its first deployment next year under the Defense Department’s global force management system.
The upcoming cruise will take the first-in-class Ford throughout the Atlantic Ocean and will include a foreign port call, Ford commanding office Capt. Paul Lanzilotta told reporters today.
“We’re going to sail on the high seas with our partners. We’re going to operate in concert with them. We want interoperability, we want interchangeability with our partners. So our NATO partners that are sailing with us, we’re going to work with them every day, every night. That’s what it means to operate on the high seas. We’re going to learn lessons with them. We’re going to build out the tactics that Ford-class brings to the table, kind of see where we’ve got, areas to improve,” Lanzilotta said.
“There’s always going to be areas to improve.”
The Navy is billing the cruise as a “service-retained deployment” and the carrier strike group’s command and control is under U.S. 2nd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Daniel Dwyer.
Carrier Strike Group 12 and Carrier Air Wing 8 will go out with Ford, in addition to Destroyer Squadron 2, Dwyer said. Destroyer Squadron Two will include USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), USS Ramage (DDG-61) and USS McFaul (DDG-74). Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) is also part of the CSG, as are Lewis and Clark-class cargo ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE-5) and Henry J Kaiser-class oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO-188).
Ford will not take a full carrier air wing for the cruise, but will have eight squadrons aboard, including F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, MH-60R Seahawks, MH-60S and EA-18G Growlers.
“Every single type and model series of aircraft is represented on our deployment,” Lanzilotta said. “Some of those squadrons are not coming out with every single aircraft that they normally would have, for example on George. H. W. Bush right now, which is out on deployment. But it’s going close to a full air wing.”
The multi-national cruise will feature nine countries – France, Denmark, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, the United States and Germany for a total of 17 ships and one submarine, Dwyer said.
“The carrier expects to execute eight distinct phases throughout this service-retained deployment,” Dwyer said.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) while in homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 7, 2022. USNI News Photo
Those stages will include, “sailing with six allied ships, as well as the carrier strike group, U.S. naval support and destroyers, and in those eight distinct phases she will conduct strike group steaming, air defense exercises, maritime domain awareness, long-range maritime strike, distributed maritime operations, anti-submarine warfare exercises, as well as naval integration.”
Once the CSG staff, the destroyer squadron staff, the air wing and liaison officers are aboard the carrier, Lanzilotta expects to have about 4,700 personnel on the ship.
Ford’s CO described the cruise as a “stepping stone kind of approach” as the carrier and its crew prepare for next year’s deployment, which will be longer than the upcoming cruise.
“We’ve got our allies and partners with us, so that really kind of makes us work a little bit harder to make sure we’re all talking. So when we go out and we sail on the high seas, it’s a thing to just launch and recover aircraft every single day, to have the battle rhythm of command and control throughout the carrier strike group,” Lanzilotta said. “We’re going to refine all that with our team, just building our – the people part of operating together. We’re going to stress the logistics strain a little bit. So by operating further away from home, we’ll be demonstrating what navies do every single day all around the globe.”
As for the first-in-class carrier’s new technologies – the Advanced Arresting Gear, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Weapons Elevators –Lanzilotta said all of the systems are “fully certified for unlimited use” on the ship.
“We’re no longer in testing world here. We’re not science experimenting. We are not doing developmental tests,” he told reporters. “We will be doing concurrent operational tests – that’s always something that you’ll see when a weapons system is between its initial operating capability and its full operating capability.”
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Five years after its commissioning, the world’s largest warship is in shape to deploy, the officer who oversees the Navy’s carrier program said last week. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) quietly reached its initial operating capability in December and has been in workups since completing a six-month repair availability in March […]
Distinguished visitors observe flight operations aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), Sept. 17, 2022. US Navy Photo
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Five years after its commissioning, the world’s largest warship is in shape to deploy, the officer who oversees the Navy’s carrier program said last week.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) quietly reached its initial operating capability in December and has been in workups since completing a six-month repair availability in March following explosive shock trials off the coast of Florida.
“She’s fully delivered now, she’s met her initial operating capability,” Rear Adm. James Downey told USNI News last week during the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium.
“She’s fully through the operational threshold.”
Since leaving the repair period, Ford and its crew have been operating at a steady pace off of the East Coast with elements of Carrier Air Wing 8. The crew aboard completed system qualification tests, flight deck certification, three phases of air warfare training, and a Combat Systems Operational Readiness Evaluation that included 11,000 aircraft launches and arrested landings, according to the service.
“Over the last couple of years, she’s spent 250 to 300 days at sea,” Downey said.
“That’s coming up on about two deployments [of steaming days].”
USS Gerald R. Ford while in homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 7, 2022. USNI News Photo
The delay for the $13 billion Ford to pull its share of the operational load was in large part due to the integration of a bevy of new technologies that Pentagon leaders required the Navy to include in the new class.
Those included the Electromagnetic Launching System, known as EMALS, for the aircraft, the Advanced Arresting Gear and the Dual Band air search radar. That included the installation of 11 advanced weapons elevators which took several years. The final one was delivered in December.
Following the completion of the training and certifications, Ford departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 16 ahead of an Atlantic training cruise later this year.
The upcoming underway won’t be the same as a full carrier strike group deployment, but will be an extended training cruise meant to give the operational commander a chance to get a better sense of how Ford operates, two congressional sources briefed on the Navy’s plan told USNI News in the last several weeks.
The Navy has billed the underway as a “service retained deployment,” which doesn’t require the same certifications for a fully deployed CSG, the Hill sources confirmed to USNI News. The training cruise will partner the strike group with allied ships and will inform a traditional deployment in 2023, USNI News has learned.
When Ford finally enters the deployment cycle, it will ease the burden of the existing East Coast carrier fleet, which has seen a string of extended deployments over the last several years. The carrier was originally scheduled to deploying 2018.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – HII has laid the keel block of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-80) on Tuesday, USNI News has learned. The seventh U.S. warship named after the Revolutionary War sloop, Enterprise formally began fabrication at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia, Rear Adm. James Downey, the program executive officer for carriers, told […]
An artist’s concept of the future carrier Enterprise (CVN-80). DoD Image
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – HII has laid the keel block of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-80) on Tuesday, USNI News has learned.
The seventh U.S. warship named after the Revolutionary War sloop, Enterprise formally began fabrication at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia, Rear Adm. James Downey, the program executive officer for carriers, told USNI News on Tuesday.
The start of fabrication comes three weeks ahead of schedule and as the carrier is about 13 percent done, Downey said.
Enterprise will be the third Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier and is expected to deliver to the Navy in 2028. HII and the service will have a formal ceremony marking the occasion in August, USNI News understands.
Enterprise and follow-on ship the future USS Doris Miller (CVN-81) were bought as part of a block-buy strategy estimated to be valued at $24 billion, as part of a 2019 deal with HII. Miller is expected to deliver to the fleet by 2032.
News of the milestone comes as the Navy confirmed the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) had reached initial operational capacity in December. The quiet declaration means is now in material shape to deploy followed the delivery of the carrier’s 11th Advanced Weapons Elevator. The carrier commissioned in 2017 with none of the elevators delivered and working out the kinks in the system was a major roadblock for the program.
Last month, Ford completed a six-month availability following full-ship shock trails in which the Navy detonated 40,000-ton of explosives in a durability test of the carrier’s design. The carrier is now due to begin workups before an anticipated fall patrol.
Newport News is currently working on the three future Fords — John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), Enterprise and Miller – as well as the mid-life overhaul of USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). The hulk of the decommissioned aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65) is also at the yard.