The U.S. Navy’s first Ford-class aircraft carrier, the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), completed its first set of at-sea tests April 14.

The ship returned to Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., after undergoing seven days of “successful” builder’s sea trials, according to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and prime contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] Newport News Shipbuilding.

The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on April 14, 2017, after returning from builder's sea trials. (Photo by U.S. Navy)
The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on April 14, 2017, after completing its builder’s sea trials. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

During the trials, the carrier underwent tests of many of its key systems. It tracked aircraft with its Raytheon [RTN] Dual Band Radar, conducted no-load cycles with the new General Atomics Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and performed small-boat operations.

“Primary risk-reduction objectives were successfully met, and, as is typical with sea trials, the Navy and shipbuilder learned a great deal about the ship’s performance during the extensive testing,” NAVSEA said. “Analysis continues, and any identified corrective actions will be addressed.”

Among the sea-trial participants were the ship’s crew, HII representatives and various Navy officials, including Adm. James Caldwell, director of the naval nuclear propulsion program, and Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers. The ship has been under construction since 2009.

“To see her come to life and perform as she was designed and built to do is awe-inspiring and a testament to her shipbuilders and Navy crew,” said Matt Mulherin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding.

Navy officials have said that the builder’s trials will be followed two to four weeks later by the Navy’s own sea trials, and that the Navy expects to take delivery of the carrier in late April or May.

During the builder’s trials, the carrier performed an unexpected mission by supporting the medical evacuation of an ailing sailor aboard dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51). The Ford dispatched an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter to transport the sailor to a hospital on land.

“We got the word, coordinated the necessary permissions, and were off-deck shortly thereafter,” said Cmdr. Jody Smotherman, the carrier’s combat direction center officer.