HII Delivers Final Advanced Weapons Elevator Aboard USS Gerald R. Ford

December 23, 2021 2:48 PM
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on Nov. 12, 2021. USNI News Photo

The last long-delayed advanced weapons elevator aboard carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) have been delivered from shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries to the Navy, Naval Sea Systems Command said on Thursday.

The 11th elevator delivered to the service from shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries who had workers aboard the ship continuously aboard the carrier to deliver the elevators that use electromagnetic motors rather than cables and pullies to move ordnance from weapons stores in the belly of the ship to the aircraft on the ship’s deck and the hangar bays.

The ship commissioned in 2017 with none of the elevators ready to be turned over to the Navy. Since then, the service and HII have worked to certify the systems as the ship prepared to deploy as the flag ship of a carrier strike group.

“The Navy-Industry teaming provided the opportunities for hundreds of craftsmen, technicians and engineers, working around the clock—through multiple underway and holiday periods—to get these advanced systems online and operational,” Rear Adm. James Downey, the program executive officer for aircraft carriers said in a statement.

The technology behind the elevator has proved reliable commercially and the delay in delivering the elevators to the ship relates to the installation of the systems into the hull, several Navy officials have told USNI News over the last several years. Given the volatility of the cargo, the elevator mechanism must work in concert with a series of doors and shafts within exacting tolerances, USNI News understands.

The system is one of several on the carrier that promises to improve the sortie generation rate of the aircraft carrier.

The carrier is in the midst of a six-month planned incremental availability repair period following this year’s full-ship shock trials off the coast of Florida.

In October, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12 of Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman told USNI News there were four elevators left to deliver.

“Since they’ve had control over them, they’ve done over 15,000 cycles in all conditions. So it’s really positive from that aspect. The remaining four are on track to be turned over before the completion of the [planned incremental availability],” Huffman said of the carrier’s crew and the elevators at the time. “We’re in a good spot to have all of that completed prior to completing the availability and prior to getting back out.”

Outside the elevators, the service said the carrier was on track to deliver on time from the availability ahead of an anticipated 2022 deployment.

“The end game is always operational readiness,” added Downey, “and Ford is on track to complete this PIA on schedule, conduct sea trials and to move on to follow on tasking.”

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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