Home » Aviation » Carrier Gerald R. Ford Heads to Sea Next Month; Commissioning Later This Year

Carrier Gerald R. Ford Heads to Sea Next Month; Commissioning Later This Year

Tug boats maneuver the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) into the James River during the ship's turn ship evolution June 11, 2016. US Navy Photo

Tug boats maneuver the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) into the James River during the ship’s turn ship evolution June 11, 2016. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated to correct the title of Ye-Ling Wang, who now serves as program manager for future aircraft carriers. A previous version of this post referred to her as deputy program manager, which is her previous title.

Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will head to sea for builders trials next month, a next step leading up to its commissioning later this year.

The ship is currently participating in a series of certifications – part of the critical path testing that ensures the ship is in good material condition to go to sea and the crew is proficient enough to safely operate the carrier, Ye-Ling Wang, program manager for future aircraft carriers at the Program Executive Office for Aircraft Carriers (PMS 378), said today at the American Society for Naval Engineers’ Technologies, Systems and Ships event.

As part of this “safe to sail” event, she said navigation certification activities are currently taking place, as well as an overall crew certification effort run by the type commander.

Before the ship can go to sea for builders trials, the crew and the ship will go through certifications on navigation, communications, ship handling, habitability, propulsion plant, damage control and more. Those involved will also be looking ahead for any possible hazards during the planned builders trials and, if any exist, find ways now to mitigate those potential problems.

Builders trials are hosted by the contractor to demonstrate the ship’s quality and ability to perform at sea. Wang told USNI News that Ford would not launch or recover any airplanes during this test, but rather just demonstrate the ship’s more basic functions.

Acceptance trials would be the next step, when a government team of evaluators would ensure the ship and crew are ready to join the fleet. PEO Carriers officials told USNI News that a commissioning date has not yet been scheduled and is currently slated for “later this year.”

  • NavySubNuke

    Better late than never – hopefully the next hulls of the class are able to arrive closer on time and on budget now that the first of class issues have been worked out.

    • muzzleloader

      The major first of class issue I am wondering if has been solved is the EMALS and Cats.

      • Rocco

        They are one & the same!! As for the arresting gear I don’t know yet!

      • Bernard Carbajal

        As long as there are blastdoors and after burners there is little reason to abandon steam cats. Greyhounds 1st up with a full head of steam then canabalise every bit of heat from the blastdoors on every launch. As long as an 18 inch main doesn’t crack and shower the aircraft in the hanger with molten salt it’ll be good.

        • RDF

          I think you mean to say “JBD – Jet Blast Deflector”. Not Blastdoors which are something else. I think so. Or is there something new on this class ?

          • Bernard Carbajal

            JBD is the correction. Yes

          • Rocco


  • Western

    Dear Lord. I pray they have three shifts of qualified Machinist’s Mates standing watch over the main lube oil system.

    • RDF

      good one.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Great news, now we can look forward to the day, 30 years or so from now, when we’ll all be looking back on the Ford as a model for great shipbuilding and program development and berate the new leaders for the inability to match the professionalism of their predecessors. Ditto the F-35C, which will likely be the F-18 of the world then, a cheap alternative to the New Shiny Thing we’re spending trillions on.

  • John B. Morgen

    I’m more incline to cancel the program, then replace it with an extension of the Nimitz program—build more Nimitz class aircraft carriers—with some improvements…..The G. Ford CVN program is not working, and it is far behind–enough!

    • USNVO

      That’s a great idea. They could start with the Nimitz hull and then maybe:
      – Change the hull slightly to buy back margins.
      – Use New Reactors, the one’s on the NIMITZ are ancient and manpower hogs. Much better and safer ones are possible and reduce manning. And not just any manning, really expensive, nuclear trained manning.
      – Move the Island back and make it smaller, the NIMITZ design was too large and made plane handling difficult.
      – Go to a “pit stop” refueling and rearming model. Much more efficient.
      – Get rid of steam auxiliaries. If there is a maintenance nightmare, it is steam auxiliaries. They need to go if you want to really save some money. While you are at it, and since you need new generators anyway, increase voltage on the main bus to more efficiently generate and distribute power throughout the ship.
      – Maybe an electromagnetic catapult so you can get rid of those other manpower and maintenance hogs, the steam catapults.
      – Better get new arresting gear to be able to handle a wider variety of aircraft.
      – Add new radars so you can get rid of some of the topside clutter.
      Yeah, that will be way cheaper than the FORD, which is now projected to only be $5 billion cheaper in lifecycle costs than the GHWB and provide more steaming days in its life as well.

      • muzzleloader

        Well put!

      • John B. Morgen

        You don’t need to make changes in the hull design, except, I would add sonar and in-hull ASW torpedo tubes. New reactors are fine, but I would not reduce the manpower because such a large carrier, you going to need many highly skilled specialists on hand as possible. A larger superstructure is needed for radars, and other navelectronics, for additional upgrades, etc. Your other reasons are just non-sense, any upgrades of naval technology is fine, but they have to preform, and a large complement is required for repairs. Again, you do not want to have a smaller complement for large super aircraft carriers; it doesn’t work. Automation is alright, provided nothing breaks down, or gets damage either by enemy action or mishaps..

        • USNVO

          1. A new hull was required even if you just redid the NIMITZ class because the margins were gone. Are you advocating for intentionally ignoring the stability requirements?
          2. SONARs and Torpedo Tubes on a HVU have been tried numerous times and never worked. If you want counter torpedo launchers, you can add them on the sponsons and a towed sensor makes more sense than anything hull mounted for detection.
          3. Manpower is the number one expenditure on the ship once it is built (and the Navy as a whole). Reducing manpower from 3000 to 2500 is not going to endanger the ship significantly but there is a huge opportunity cost to not reducing manpower (i.e. you are going to have to get the bodies somewhere and There, Is, No, Topline, Relief). Are you advocating stripping all the other ships of people? Besides, many of those people are not needed because there is no more steam outside the machinery spaces. Are you advocating increasing the workload on the sailors and shore establishment? Stealing resources from someone else? By reducing the crushing maintenance burden, primarily from steam catapults and auxiliaries but also the new reactors, 10 FORD class have as many deployable days (you know, why we buy the ships in the first place) as 12 NIMITZ class (a ship in the yards does nothing for you). Oh, and electrical systems are also safer and more reliable than steam ones, are you advocating killing more sailors in accidents?
          4. A large islands creates more wind eddies and makes landing more difficult. Are you advocating killing pilots because you are afraid of change? Or damaging more aircraft in handling accidents? Taking longer to generate sorties so that you are less combat effective?

          The USS NIMITZ was designed in 1968, do you really think it doesn’t need to be updated. And yes, the FORD class is just an updated NIMITZ class that leverages improvements in technology that have occurred in the last, what 49 years. Yeah, can’t think of too many things that have changed in that time.

    • tachyonzero

      LOL, Ford class are just Nimitz in the shell, with some improvements and rearranging of compartments, improve reactor and a new engine

      Yes, you can call that Nimitz on steroid.

      • John B. Morgen

        Yeah, I can say the same thing about Kitty Hawk class being the Forrestals on steroids. Nevertheless, the G. Ford class is a very new class.

  • RTColorado

    Anybody taking bets on how long it takes to run this ship into something or for something major to break?I’d love to see this beauty sail out, pass every test and become the pride of the fleet, but if recent history has anything to teach us, it’s that somebody will either ram her into something or manage to destroy at least one key system on her before she even gets to her home port. I believe we have the best navy in the world, but they haven’t been having much success lately. It’s easy to blame cutbacks, sequestration and high mission rates, but some of the disasters are more related to a lack of proficiency than dollars. Let’s hope the USS Ford will be the beginning of a long and successful career and the turn around the Navy needs.

  • johnbull

    Hope she has clean builders’ trials and acceptance trials after that. It is very late, but new technology always has teething issues. There will always be bugs to work out with the first in class, so her successors the Kennedy and Enterprise should be much smoother.

  • Andrew Doolittle

    The time has come to put this monster to Sea.

    All of Congress and the President should be on board when it happens because simply put “that’s their job.”

    I wouldn’t vote for anyone who didn’t show up actually.

    The Navy might want to order more Zummwalts instead of the Arleigh Burke Flight 3 as well imo. Try and get the price down of course…but the money is truly their “if we all can start getting along.”