Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The USS Gerald R. Ford left port in Norfolk, Va., to begin aircraft compatibility testing off the East Coast, the Navy announced.
The ACT, which started Thursday, is meant to continue testing of systems for aircraft to launch and land on the vessel. It started in earnest, the Navy said in a press release, with an E-2D as the first aircraft to land on the carrier as it departed from port.
The Ford, which is intended to replace Nimitz-class carriers but has been troubled by cost overruns and delays, last flew aircraft in January 2018 and has logged 747 launches and arrestments to date.
"This is one of the reasons why I love the Navy," said Airman Xavier Pettway, from Jacksonville, Fla. "It's crazy to think about. Even when we were doing drills on the flight deck my heart was beating so fast, and now, we're doing it for real. It's unreal, but I'm ready for it."
This will be the first time the T-45 Goshawks, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and E/A-18G Growlers aircraft will launch and recover from the aircraft carrier.
The upcoming phase of testing will also include launch-and-arrestment runs with F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and C-2A Greyhounds.
"Ford is now proving all of the test-work accomplished at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. over the last year-and-a-half, that we can fly fleet aircraft as a ship with EMALS and AAG integrated," said Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem, Ford's Air Boss. "This is very exciting, and it is the culmination of a year-and-a-half of training, anticipation, and teamwork."
This round of testing will allow the crew to test improvements made during post-shakedown availability at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News.
It will allow the crew to continue testing the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, the launch system of choice for the Ford and all future Ford-class carriers.
It uses stored kinetic energy and solid-state electrical power conversion, permitting a high degree of computer control, monitoring and automation.
In December, Huntingon Ingalls won an $11.5 million contract to repair the Ford, including its 11 electromagnetic elevators, just seven of which were operational at the end of October.
In 2019, the vessel completed a training evolution, sea trials and an independent steaming exercise that included sailing 7,000 nautical miles.