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Elevators aboard USS Gerald R. Ford to be fixed after shock trials

The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will undergo shock trials before a planned maintenance program that will include installation and certification of its non-working weapons elevators. Photo by MCS Nikita Custer/U.S. Navy
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will undergo shock trials before a planned maintenance program that will include installation and certification of its non-working weapons elevators. Photo by MCS Nikita Custer/U.S. Navy

May 17 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will undergo exercises known as shock trials within weeks, and later deal with four inoperable weapons elevators.

The lower-stage elevators on the vessel, used to move ordnance, have been a problem since construction began in 2009. The ship was launched in 2009 and commissioned in 2013.

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The four elevators, of 11 aboard the ship, will be dealt with during the ship's Planned Incremental Availability later this year, a scheduled upgrading and modernization of all systems, according to officials.

A Navy spokesperson said on May 7 that the non-working elevators will not be certified until later in the year.

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Two are being tested and not yet delivered, while two more are in the "last stages of construction" and are "estimated to complete, certify and turnover later this year."

The ship will nonetheless undertake the shock trials, Forbes.com reported.

The trials are a specific combat preparation exercise in which a range of weapons is fired at or near the ship, to indicate whether vibration can cause problems. It is unusual for a ship to enter the trials without essential working components such as elevators.

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After the trials, the USS Gerald R. Ford will likely stay at Newport News Shipbuilding for its PIA and elevator certification until early in 2022, the Daily Press reported on Monday.

The nuclear-powered ship is the first of the Ford class of aircraft carriers, and features a 13,800-volt electrical system, considerably stronger than other aircraft carriers in its capacity to produce electricity.

While in Newport News it will be moored adjacent to the under-construction USS John F. Kennedy, the second in the class.

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The issue of the elevators aboard the ship has been contentious, with Navy leaders regularly promising installation and certification on several occasions.

Adm. John Aquilino, chief of the Navy's Indo-Pacific command, told a Congressional committee in March that all but two elevators aboard the USS Ford were repaired, suggesting that inadequate or overoptimistic information is being delivered to Navy leadership.

Since the elevators aboard the aircraft carrier are located throughout the ship, each could conceivably react differently to the shock trials, and further delays for repairs and adjustments could impact future Ford-class ships, officials said.

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