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Ford aircraft carrier departs to Newport News for planned maintenance

Ford aircraft carrier departs to Newport News for planned maintenance
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford departed Naval Station Norfolk Friday to transit to Newport News Shipyard ahead of a Planned Incremental Availability, a six-month period of modernization, maintenance, and repairs. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class William Spears/U.S. Navy

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has departed from Norfolk Naval Station to Newport News Shipyard for planned maintenance.

The six-month maintenance period, called a Planned Incremental Availability, which includes modernization, maintenance and repairs, was slated to serve as the final maintenance phase prior to the warship's anticipated inaugural deployment next year, according to a U.S. Navy statement.

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"Team Wolverine is ready for this brief but important maintenance period in Newport News, because we're pumped for what comes next," Ford's Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta said in the statement on the day of the departure Friday.

"This is a first-in class warship that will lead the future of carrier naval aviation for years to come, and this PIA is the last milestone for us to complete prior to our first work ups and deployment," Lanzilotta said.

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The move follows Post-Delivery Test and Trials and Full Ship Shock Trials in the Atlantic Ocean to ensure readiness, and improve upon the construction and ship trial process for follow-on carriers in the class, such as the future USS John F. Kennedy, Enterprise and Doris Miller, the statement said.

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The crew completed all required testing, planned improvements and maintenance ahead of schedule, and learned lessons to increase the reliability of Ford-class systems during the PDT&T, the Navy said.

The ship also served as the sole East Coast platform for conducting carrier qualifications, qualifying more than 350 pilots.

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The FSST, which tested the warship's ability to withstand shock in a simulated combat environment with live ordnance, were successfully completed earlier this month.

During the FSST, the Ford withstood the impact of three 40,000-pound underwater blasts fired progressively closer to the ship to show that it could endure harsh conditions.

"This ship and the crew performed exceptionally well during shock trials, and much of the credit goes to the ship designers and builders who put in the technical rigor to ensure Ford-class carriers will sustain naval aviation for generations to come," Lanzilotta said in the statement.

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The Ford will receive additional detailed inspections to assess any damage sustained during the shots and continue modernization and maintenance work prior to the ship's deployment next year, according to a Naval Sea Systems Command statement after the completion of the FSST.

The PIA will include fixing four of the 11 elevators to move ordnance on the ship, which have been a problem since construction began in 2009.

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The aircraft carrier commissioned in 2017 is 1,106 feet in length, is the largest ever built. Munitions elevators and nuclear propulsion system problems pushed construction costs to over $13 billion, making it the most expensive warship built.

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