April 17 (UPI) -- The Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding have finished building and testing the first lower elevator on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford and will likely be turned over to the ship's crew soon, James Geurts, the assistant navy secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition, told reporters this week.
The Ford has been operating at sea part-time over the past several weeks, Geurts said during a Thursday briefing on COVID-19's impact on the branch's acquisition and development work.
The recently-completed elevator is the fifth overall Advanced Weapons Elevator on the ship and the first that goes all the way from the flight deck to the magazines in the ship.
Geurts said he wants to get one forward and one aft lower elevator certified and turned over to the crew as soon as possible.
"My main focus is getting these first two lower elevators turned over because that will allow full access from the magazine all the way to the flight deck -- and why that's important is then the ship can train and start exercising the full cycle of cyclic operations," Geurts said.
That plan leaves the remaining five elevators planned to be done ahead of the ship's shock trials in 2021.
Last week the Navy announced that the Ford had completed tests of its combat system capabilities while deployed in the Atlantic.
According to Geurts, during the Ford's 32-day at-sea period, it conducted 1,352 catapult launches and arrested landings with crews from Newport News Shipbuilding working on construction while aboard.
The Ford, the first in a new class of carriers intended to replace the Nimitz class of carriers, has been troubled by cost overruns and delays -- notably with its electromagnetic elevators.