Carrier USS Gerald Ford Leaves Norfolk for Last Repairs Before Maiden Deployment

August 23, 2021 7:28 PM - Updated: August 25, 2021 6:39 AM
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) departed Naval Station Norfolk to transit to Newport News Shipbuilding in support of her Planned Incremental Availability (PIA), a six-month period of modernization, maintenance, and repairs, Aug. 20, 2021. US Navy Photo

After three bulkhead-rattling explosions off the coast of Florida, carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and its crew began the ship’s last repair period before a long-delayed deployment.

On Friday, the $13 billion carrier made the short trip across the James River to Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding for the six-month planned incremental availability following the explosive shock trials off the East Coast, the Navy announced on Saturday.

Ending in August, the carrier and crew endured three 40,000-pound blasts to test the Ford-class design as part of the full-ship shock trials.

In a roundtable with reporters in early August, Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer, said that from early assessments the damage Ford suffered during shock tests would not add a significant amount of work to the maintenance period.

“Nothing that I’ve seen reported to me so far is in the category of so much more work than I expect it to add to the scope of the availability in terms of schedule,” he said.

The results from the thousands of sensors aboard Ford will be used to refine the design of the class moving forward

Ahead of the shock trials, Ford completed 21 months of its post-delivery period after shipbuilder Newport News delivered the carrier to the Navy and the ship commissioned in 2017.

Part of the availability included testing and certifying the ship’s next-generation systems that were included in the design – including the electromagnetic launching system for the aircraft, the Advanced Arresting Gear and the Dual Band air search radar.

As part of the maintenance, the yard and the Navy will complete the certification of the remaining four out of the 11 Advanced Weapons Elevators that have been a key new technology difference between the existing Nimitz-class carriers.

The deployment of Ford and its strike group will add carrier capacity to the strained East Coast force that has seen a string of double-pump deployments over the last several years.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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