March 7 (UPI) -- The second advanced weapons elevator has been accepted on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the U.S. Navy's newest aircraft carrier
Upper Stage #3 was turned over to the ship on Feb. 14 at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia where the carrier is undergoing post-shakedown availability, the Navy said in a news release Wednesday.
AWE Upper Stage #1 was accepted on Dec. 21.
Ford was commissioned into the fleet in July 2017 without any of its 11 weapons elevators fully operational.
The new elevators are commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors, which allows for greater capacities and a faster movement of weapons than the Nimitz-class carrier elevators that utilize cables.
The ship is capable for moving up to 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet per minute, compared with 10,500 pounds at up to 100 feet-per-minute on a Nimitz-class carrier.
"All of us are learning on brand new systems and brand new concepts," Cmdr. Joe Thompson, Ford's weapons officer said in a statement. "This acceptance gives us the opportunity to have that 'run time' on the physical aspects of the elevator, but also in evaluating the technical manuals, and learning the maintenance required to keep them operational."
A second installed elevator has added benefits.
"This is going to allow us to progress faster," Thompson said. "As we get smarter on one, we move on to the next and apply the lessons learned not only with regard to elevator operation, but also in the testing and certification, and maintenance processes."
With the Upper Stage #3 in the ship's aft weapons handling area, the ship has two upper stage elevators in each of its handling areas -- one forward and now one aft.
Ford-class carriers are unique with dedicated weapons handling areas between the hangar bay and flight deck. They eliminate the need for a "bomb farm" -- which are like those of Nimitz-class carriers -- and reduce horizontal and vertical weapons movements to various staging and build-up locations.
"From a weapons safety perspective, this is a huge advantage," Thompson said. "We have two dedicated locations that are not on the flight deck or in the hangar bay that have 24-7 overhead sprinkler coverage and the ability to jettison in the case of an emergency. To have these locations that allows us to operate without interfering with flight operations or in the hangar bay makes our ship that much safer."
Three upper stage elevators can move ordnance between the main deck and flight deck, and seven lower stage elevators are capable of moving ordnance between the main deck and the lower levels of the ship.
They also are designed to evacuate injured personnel from the flight deck to the hangar bay.
The process was accelerated by 10 days because of merging of the test programs between NNS and the Naval Surface Warfare Center by removing redundant steps.
"These are the most technologically unique elevators in the world, and we are going to need to find innovative methods to get the remaining nine elevators delivered this year," said Ford's Commanding Officer, Capt. J.J. Cummings. "Our weapons department sailors are hungry to operate these elevators so we can start developing procedures to maximize the flow of ordnance from our magazines to the flight deck."
"I asked him to stick his hand out; he stuck his hand out," Spencer told USNI News. "I said, 'let's do this like corporate America.' I shook his hand and said, 'the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me, '" Spencer said.
"We're going to get it done. I know I'm going to get it done. I haven't been fired yet by anyone; being fired by the president really isn't on the top of my list."