Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed its builder’s trials today and is back at Naval Station Norfolk to begin preparations for its upcoming acceptance trials.
The seven-day test event included tracking aircraft using the Dual Band Radar, conducting no-load cycles using the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), and small boat operations, the Navy said in a news release.
This and upcoming test events are meant to prove the ship is ready for delivery and commissioning into the fleet and will not begin to test the ship’s ability to launch and recover real airplanes. That testing with all the fixed-wing types of planes in the air wing will take place once the ship has commissioned, USNI News has previously reported. The Navy discovered problems with the advanced arresting gear system in 2015 and proved last fall at a land-based test facility that the solution works, but the Navy won’t have an opportunity to test the solution on a fight deck at sea until after commissioning.
“As is typical with sea trials, the Navy and shipbuilder learned a great deal about the ship’s performance during the extensive testing. Analysis continues, and any identified corrective actions will be addressed,” according to a Naval Sea Systems Command news release.
The test event was run by Newport News Shipbuilding and included the ship’s crew, the CVN-78 program office, the Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair and others. Builder’s trials had previously been scheduled for March, and the at-sea event was again delayed a few days at the beginning of April due to bad weather in the Norfolk area.
The Navy will now take over the test program and will conduct acceptance trials next. The NAVSEA statement notes the ship is on track for delivery this spring – with the Navy previously estimating an April delivery but that now looking unlikely – and the Navy has declined to speculate on when the commissioning ceremony may take place. The ship was previously planned to commission as early as March 2016.