Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has successfully completed Aircraft Compatibility Testing, the U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday.
"There are so many firsts happening, and many of them we frankly don't even really realize," Ford's Air Boss, Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem toward the end of the testing evolution, said in a press release. "We've had the first ever T-45, EA-18 Growler, E-2D Hawkeye, and C-2A Greyhound, and there are pilots on board this ship right now who will forever be able to say that their contribution to the Navy was to be the first pilot or NFO [Naval Flight Officer] to come aboard the Gerald R. Ford-class in that type aircraft."
The testing phase also included catapult launches for the F/A-18F Super Hornets from VX-23 and C-2A Greyhound from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20.
Crews tested the Ford's capability to launch and recover aircraft using the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and advanced arresting gear, two systems unique to the carrier.
"There's no simulator for an aircraft carrier," Akacem said. "There's a lot of learning going on end-to-end, and we are learning a ton about how to operationalize these new technologies, and that's the benefit of finally being out here at sea. We're seeing the ship come to life. Just over the last few weeks, we've got salt air on the flight deck, we've got skid marks on the flight deck, and it's really starting to feel like an aircraft carrier."
The Ford was built to replace Nimitz-class carriers but has been troubled by cost overruns and delays. The carrier last flew aircraft in January 2018.