Carrier Strike Group Twelve (CSG-12) assumed operational control of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first ship of the Navy’s newest class of aircraft carrier, as the ship begins flight deck certification off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia.
CSG-12, under the command of Rear Adm. Michael E. Boyle, assumed operational control of Gerald R. Ford on Monday. The Norfolk-based CSG had previously operated aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), which set a 290-day record for a carrier strike group deployment.
“We’re extremely excited to have Gerald R. Ford join Carrier Strike Group twelve as she prepares for Flight Deck Certification this month, an important milestone on her way to becoming a fully operational aircraft carrier,” said Boyle said in a statement from the U.S. Navy. “I know the ship has already achieved many milestones during her Post Delivery Test and Trials, and I believe Ford’s leadership and support system will continue that forward progress.”
Entering the fourth month of an 18-month Post Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) period, the ship has performed extremely well while under way for 54 of 110 days, since completion of its Post-Shakedown Availability in October 2019, conducting exercises and testing installed shipboard systems at sea as well as pier-side at Naval Station Norfolk.
CVN 78 completed Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT) on January 31, following 16 days under way, during which the crew launched and recovered 211 aircraft, testing five different airframes and employing first generation, state-of-the-art flight deck systems.
The testing phase included Gerald R. Ford’s first-ever underway catapult launches and arrested landings for several aircraft types, including C-2A Greyhounds, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, and T-45C Goshawks.
The total count for launches and recoveries since CVN 78’s delivery is now 958, along with another 147 aircraft “touch and goes.” All of the aircraft types expected to make first deployment are now certified to conduct flight operations on board the ship.
Final construction of the ship’s Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs) is also progressing. The four elevators previously turned over to the crew continue to perform well, with Sailors conducting more than 7,000 cycles. Lower Stage Elevator #5, which provides aft magazine access, has progressed into final testing and is on track to turn over in April. Lower Stage Elevator #1, which provides forward magazine access, is on track to turn over in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2020. The remaining five elevators are on track to be turned over by Full Ship Shock Trials, scheduled for Fiscal Year 2021.
In May, Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW) 8 will embark Gerald R. Ford and begin conducting cyclic flight operations. This will include the first end-to-end movement, loading, and launch of inert ordnance from the ship’s aft weapons magazine to an F/A-18 on the flight deck. Eight of the remaining nine at-sea periods will involve flight operations and carrier qualification events, which, when completed, will add significant operational readiness to the Fleet.