The U.S. Navy and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered sharply different assessments of the first Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN-78) July 12, with the Navy touting the ship’s “significant progress” and the powerful lawmaker blasting the program’s latest delay.
As of June, the CVN-78 was 98 percent complete and had finished 89 percent of its shipboard testing, according to a statement from Capt. Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman. In addition, testing of the new electromagnetic aircraft launching system (EMALS) wrapped up in May, all six dual-band radar arrays have been energized at high power, and installation and testing of the advanced arresting gear (AAG) is projected to be done in time to support the first aircraft operations in January, Kent said.
Kent acknowledged that the CVN-78’s delivery, previously eyed for late September, is now slated for November. She attributed the change to “first-of-class issues” that the Navy is working to resolve. “If additional issues arise during the remaining shipboard testing, that date may need to be revised,” she cautioned.
McCain, however, was unimpressed, saying that the delivery postponement, the latest in a series, “further demonstrates that key systems still have not demonstrated expected performance.” The AAG “cannot recover airplanes,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a statement. “Advanced weapons elevators cannot lift munitions. The dual-band radar cannot integrate two radar bands. Even if everything goes according to the Navy’s plan, CVN-78 will be delivered with multiple systems unproven.”
A spokeswoman for Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], the ship’s builder, declined to enter the fray, except to say that “we continue to work closely with the Navy to complete the testing program and get the ship to sea.”