June 3 (UPI) -- Operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford have moved from launching planes to preparing for maritime combat, the Navy announced on Tuesday.
Seven squadrons of aircraft, comprising nearly 30 fixed-wing aircraft and two Helicopter Sea Combat squadrons, were aboard as the vessel, commissioned in 2017, began cyclic operations on May 30 off the U.S. East Coast, according to the Navy.
Additionally, the ship's state-of-the-art Advanced Weapons Elevators successfully moved inert, or non-exploding, ordnance from a lower deck storage magazine to F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter planes waiting on the flight deck.
Use of the elevator was the first opportunity to execute a full ordnance movement aboard the ship. The design and operation of the elevators has been a constant source of problems as the ship was constructed.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Navy referred to the series of events in the ship's three-day, two-night schedule as a "crawl, walk, run" approach.
Capt. J.J. Cummings, the USS Ford's commanding officer, said the oversize collection of planes and ordnance offer an opportunity to stress-test the ship and test some of its unique designs.
"This is a historic underway. We embarked nearly 1,000 sailors, the largest air wing embark to date, and we were able to commence cyclic operations and it's proven successful," Cummings said Monday during a teleconference. "It's exciting to have the air wing onboard and get into their spaces and berthings so they can help us tighten things up to where they want them to be."
Prior to the weekend's actions, the USS Gerald R.Ford had only worked with test squadrons for aircraft launches and landings. Fleet pilots came aboard in March to help secure the ship's flight deck certification.
"We're thrilled to be here dropping light and heavy inert ordnance, but the biggest thing as the air wing commander is to do our primary mission: war at sea, air defense, air superiority and power projection," said Capt. Josh Sager, commander of Carrier Air Wing 8, the command overseeing the aircraft aboard the ship referred to a CVW 8. "We're taking [the ship] from carrier qualification to a mission that focuses on combat operations and expanding that capability."