The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, the first in its class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), is expected to deploy “by this fall,” the Navy’s program executive officers for aircraft carriers told reporters last Friday.
“She will do workups over this spring and summer…the plan is toward the end of this summer she goes. She’s going to visit multiple theaters of operations with multiple allies and her strike group and her wing,” Rear Adm. James Downey told reporters during a media call on Jan. 21.
Downey said he could not get into the specifics of where and when but noted the ship and its strike group will visit with “more allies than I can briefly summarize.”
Frederick Stefany, the acting Navy acquisition chief, said the service is saying CVN-78 and its strike group is deploying “by this fall.”
Downey said the current effort is to have the ship out by the fall or end of the summer.
“If we look into detail there, what are typical actual dates for beginning of the fall, she’s right around there to a bit of the left of it,” he continued.
Downey noted the Navy has considered the Ford as the service’s 11th carrier since it entered the 18-month Post-Delivery Test and Trials phase, which ended last year.
Downey also said the Ford’s shock trials “resulted in 20 percent of the amount of work we had to do after” the last carrier that underwent shock trials, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
“So only about 20 percent of the amount of hours and 85 percent of that work were ship repairable items, ship’s force. So she did really well.”
CVN-78 finished its Full Ship Shock Trials in August after completing three explosive events. Shock trials aim to validate a ship’s ability to sustain operations in a simulated combat environment using live ordnance (Defense Daily, Aug. 10, 2021).
The carrier is undergoing a planned six-month Planned Incremental Availability to convict further inspections, assess and fix damage from the shock trials, and continue any remaining modernization and sustainment work before workups.
“We knew exactly down to the systems where we thought our highest risk were to quantity component level items. So we had about what we expected and much of it not severe,” Downey said.
He added that some examples of shock trial damage are that 85 percent of the trial cards were relatively minor issues: needing to rehang things like fasteners and false bulkheads, some mirrors broken, and vanity doors not fully latched.
Generally, this covers “things that make some spaces look nice. No tank damage, no structural damage.”
The Navy instrumented the Ford with over 2,000 sensors and saw the ship moved in the manner they expected it to from the three shock events.
Downey summarized there was very little damage and the ship did well, gaining “significant training and operations of the crew,” where they learned about multiple configurations of ship systems and how to operate or rearrange them when preparing for battle scenarios.
Downey also said the next new carrier, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), is “well along, she’s 85 percent complete” and the Navy is still expecting it to have the crew move abroad in 2023 followed by combat systems and typical trials leading to ship acceptance in 2024.
The future USS Enterprise (CVN-80) is currently 12 percent complete and on track for a 2028 ship delivery, with a keel laying ceremony coming up in late April. The future USS Doris Miller (CVN-81) had its first steel cut last August and is also on track for its scheduled deliver in 2032.