The U.S. Navy’s long-delayed nuclear-powered Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) has returned to port after seven days at sea during which the ship successfully completed builder’s sea trials, the service reports.
“During this initial at-sea period, Ford’s crew, representatives from Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, the Navy’s CVN 78 Program Office, the Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair and various technical subject matter experts demonstrated many of the ship’s capabilities including tracking aircraft using the Dual Band Radar, conducting ‘no load’ cycles using the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and small boat operations,” the U.S. Navy statement reads.
The $13 billion ship features a host of new systems including the above mentioned dual-band radar system, a new advanced arresting gear (AAG) on the flight, so-called advanced weapons elevators, and two new main turbine generators. Fine-tuning and repeated tests of these largely unproven new systems have contributed to the delay in deploying the lead vessel of the U.S. Navy’s new class of nuclear-powered supercarriers. The delays have caused cost overrun of more than $2.3 billion so far. According to the Congressional Research Service:
CVN-78 was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2017 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,887.0 million (i.e., about $12.9 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received advance procurement funding in FY2001-FY2007 and was fully funded in FY2008- FY2011 using congressionally authorized four-year incremental funding. To help cover cost growth on the ship, the ship received an additional $1,374.9 million in FY2014-FY2016 in FY2015 in so-called cost-to-complete procurement funding.
The service’s initial schedule foresaw the conclusion of builder’s sea trials in March. The first round of sea trials, however, had to be pushed by a few days, which presumably will also delay acceptance trials by a few days this month. This could mean that the USS Ford will be handed over to the U.S. Navy in May rather than April. “CVN 78 remains on track to conduct acceptance trials and delivery to the Navy this spring,” the press release underlines. However, no official commissioning date has been announced so far.
Preceding the builder’s sea trials, the crew of the USS Ford completed general pier-side tests during which the sailors aboard the ship simulate operating the vessel as if it were at sea.
“The 100,000-ton Ford-class is the first new carrier design since the USS Nimitz over 40 years ago. Work on three more Ford-class carriers is already under way (CVN-79, CVN-80, and CVN-81). The Ford’s follow-on, the John F. Kennedy, will likely be commissioned with a two-year delay in 2020,” I reported elsewhere. The U.S. Navy plans to commission a fleet of ten Ford-class carriers.