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Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford begins second round of qualifications

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford begins second round of qualifications
An E2-D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft touches down on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. Photo courtesy of USS Gerald R. Ford/U.S. Navy/Facebook

May 15 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has started its second round of carrier qualification tests this week in the Atlantic Ocean, the Navy announced.

The vessel, commissioned in 2017 and undergoing tests since, on May 10 started its fourth independent steaming event after an 18-month Post Delivery Test and Trials phase of operations, the Navy said Thursday.

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The Ford is currently the only U.S. aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean, and will conduct its current qualification round with pilots from Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117 and 120, and Strike Fighter Squadron 106.

It recently completed a refitting to accommodate over 1,000 personnel and numerous aircraft. Squadron 117, known as VAW-117 or the "Wallbangers," is a unit completing a transition from the E2-C Advanced Hawkeye early warning aircraft to the upgraded E2-D variant.

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"The E-2D is our latest and greatest aircraft that has a lot of good equipment and a really good radar that's going to allow us to see our enemies at distances that we really haven't seen before," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeremiah Caldwell, a pilot assigned to VAW-117. "The training process for us is about three years just to get to the fleet, so we are here aboard Ford, training fleet aviators that are making the transition from the Charlie to the Delta."

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In the first two days of qualifications, 237 catapult launches and 244 Advanced Arresting Gear landings were successfully conducted, the Navy said.

"Getting underway knowing that our crew will be generating readiness for the fleet, along with the four other carriers at sea, is extremely rewarding," said Capt. J.J. Cummings, the aircraft carrier's commanding officer. "We are also proud that several of these aviators who carrier qualifies on our ship will be heading over the horizon soon to join deployed carriers throughout the world."

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