USS Gerald R Ford nears certification

Posted by Chris Graham on 22nd January 2020

The USS Gerald R Ford nears certification following the successful completion of a significant series of exercises late last year, before the ship returned to Naval Station Norfolk. These trials bring the new aircraft carrier ever closer to being declared fully operational, which is expected later this year.

Gerald R Ford nears certification

The US Navy’s new USS Gerald R Ford; the first of the new generation of Ford-class carriers

The USS Gerald R Ford is set commence aircraft compatibility trials soon, which will see pilots flying on and off the carrier. This will provide vital training for the deck crews, and will also test the warship’s new launch and recovery systems. This training period will see aircraft from across the carrier air group taking part in landings and take-offs, although it is understood the F-35C will not take part in the package of training.

Certification is due to take place in March (March) and represent a major milestone for the first of the new Ford-class carries. If approved, an initial air group of 50 aircraft, including F-18s, electronic attack planes and early warning aircraft, will join the ship.

The ship will be powered by two reactors generating huge energy, which will provide the capability to power the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) as well as the new Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), which have been criticised by Congress after a series of technical issues.

But the US Navy has stated that it is confident that the systems will deliver additional performance as it seeks to launch and recover more aircraft – known as the sorties rate. The aim for deck officers on the Gerald R Ford is to boost the rate to 160 over a 12-hour period, compared to the 120 launches and recoveries recorded by the Nimitz-class.

Observers suggest that such a massive change from ‘steam-powered’ to ‘electromagnetic energy’ will suffer teething problems. In the past, deck officers have had to calculate the weight of the aircraft and its payload so that the correct level of steam power to launch the aircraft can be assured. But the new EMALS system is fully computer-controlled, and delivers an exact level of electric energy to launch aircraft off the deck. In the meantime, land-based testing continues to ‘iron out’ concerns with the high-tech launch-and-recovery systems, as the sortie rate is not hitting the required level.


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