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USS Gerald R. Ford will lack most working elevators when delivered

When the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford finishes construction, only two of 11 weapons elevators are likely to be working, the shipbuilder said.

By
Ed Adamczyk
Defense Secretary Mike Esper, C, tours the under-construction aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford on September 25, 2019. It is expected that when the ship leaves its shipbuilder, most of the weapons elevators aboard will not be certified for use. Photo by MCS Seaman Zachary Melvin/U.S.Navy
Defense Secretary Mike Esper, C, tours the under-construction aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford on September 25, 2019. It is expected that when the ship leaves its shipbuilder, most of the weapons elevators aboard will not be certified for use. Photo by MCS Seaman Zachary Melvin/U.S.Navy

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- When the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford finishes construction, only two of 11 weapons elevators could be working, the shipbuilder said.

The ship is scheduled to depart Huntington Ingalls Industries' shipyard in Newport News, Va., in late October for Naval Station Norfolk, with deployment anticipated in 2021, but installations of its weapons elevators have been a construction problem.

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The ship has 11 electro-magnetic Advanced Weapons Elevators, each capable of moving 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet per minute. Nine have yet to be certified for use -- two more have reportedly undergone testing and await certification -- and at least seven will not be operational when the Navy receives the vessel.

The AWEs uses computer-controlled, high-powered permanent magnets. The Navy regards the concept as sound, and that the problems are based in integration of the elevators aboard the carrier. The design is meant to reduce the ship's crew size while increasing the available space for aircraft.

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The elevators and other problems in constructing the ship, which is a first-in-class aircraft carrier with similar carriers under development, have been a time-consuming source of concern to the Navy.

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Earlier this month, General Atomics received a $12.5 million contract modification for repairs to the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems and advanced arresting gear on Ford-class carriers. That contract calls for "repair of repairables" and technical assistance.

"I went over to Newport News Shipbuilding a few weeks ago, spent the majority of a day there touring the Ford and the [under construction aircraft carrier] John F. Kennedy, trying to understand the technical challenges that they are having with the elevators," Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. And House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Vice Chair told WVEC-TV earlier this month.

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"Even if we get to three of 11 functioning, it provides no ability whatsoever to move the ammunition up from the magazine up to the flight deck in order to arm the aircraft and deploy. As a taxpayer, we have an aircraft carrier that can't deploy and is not ready to deploy in the foreseeable future."

The cost of the 2008 contract to build the USS Gerald R. Ford has increased from $5.1 billion to $13 billion.

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