The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), completed Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST) on Aug. 8 after the Navy conducted the third explosive event.

Shock trials are meant to validate a ship’s ability to sustain operations in a simulated combat environment with live ordnance and shock hardness. 

CVN-78’s FSST occurred during a four-month testing program to validate the first-in-class carrier’s ability to withstand the impact of three 40,000-pound underwater blasts at distances progressively closer to the ship, the Navy said.

“The Navy designed the Ford-class carrier using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ships are hardened to withstand harsh battle conditions. These shock trials have tested the resiliency of Ford and her crew and provided extensive data used in the process of validating the shock hardness of the ship,” Capt. Brian Metcalf, manager for the Navy’s future aircraft carrier program office, PMS 378, said in a statement.

Metcalf noted the goal of the tests was particularly to make sure the ship’s integrated combat systems perform as designed.

“The tests demonstrated—and proved to the crew, fairly dramatically—that the ship will be able to withstand formidable shocks and continue to operate under extreme conditions,” Metcalf continued.

Following the conclusion of the tests, the Navy said the Ford is returning to the Tidewater area for a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) to conduct additional detailed inspections, assess and fix any damage sustained during the shock trials, and continue remaining modernization and sustainment work before workups for the ship’s expected deployment in 2022.

Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers Rear Adm. James P. Downey rode the ship during the first and third shock events.

“FSST has proven a critical investment in the Ford-class development. The ship and crew performed exceptionally in these very strenuous conditions and continued their operations throughout the shock events, demonstrating the ship’s ‘fight-through’ capability,” he said in a statement.

The Navy noted FSSTs generally are complex events with a precise operating schedule to stay in compliance with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting migration patterns of marine life as well as notifying mariners to avoid the test area to ensure safety of military and civilian personnel.

The Navy said the final go/no-go decision for each test event was made between 4:00 and 8:00 a.m. on the day of the scheduled blast. It was based on several variables including ship and crew readiness, weather and sea state, and pre-set environmental mitigation measures.

 The first two shots of the FSST sequence occurred on June 18 and July 16, with the final one taking place on Aug. 8.

The tactical commander who ordered each decision was Ford Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, 

“Safety was always the driving consideration throughout the shock trials. So, once we were ready and in position, pausing the countdown to the shot could really test our focus and persistence,” Lanzilotta said.

CVN-78 was the first aircraft carrier to undergo FSSTs since the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in 1987. 

FSSTs began only after the Ford completed an 18-month Post Delivery Test ands Trials period wherein it completed testing, planned improvements and maintenance while serving as the only East Coast platform for pilot carrier qualifications.