Tag Archives: EALS

Warship 78 & Friends

As we’ve covered in past posts, the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) is in the Atlantic Ocean on its inaugural (albeit short) deployment, “conducting training and operations alongside NATO Allies and partners to enhance integration for future operations and demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s commitment to a peaceful, stable and conflict-free Atlantic region.”

In other words, showing that NATO muscle to Putin and associates as the Old World heads into the grips of what all signs point to being a very rough winter.

With most of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 aboard, Ford looks great.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 7, 2022) An MH-60S Knighthawk, attached to the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9, prepares to land on the flight deck of the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), Nov. 7, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jackson Adkins). VIRIN: 221107-N-TL968-2645

Alongside, Ford is cruising with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) and USS McFaul (DDG 74) with the aging-but-still-beautiful Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) as her main consort.

As part of Exercise Silent Wolverine “a U.S.-led, combined training exercise that tests Ford-class aircraft carrier capabilities through integrated high-end naval warfare scenarios alongside participating allies in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean,” the GRFCSG has been steaming with an Allied six-pack of escorts including the Danish frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes (FFH 362), the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336), the Spanish frigate Álvaro de Bazán (F 101), the Dutch frigates HNLMS De Zeven Povincien (F 802) and HNLMS Van Amstel (F 831), as well as the French frigate FS Chevalier Paul (D 621).

Besides pass-exs and drills, GRFCSG is executing a Sailor-exchange program with Sailors of all ranks across the strike group, spending a day aboard Allied ships to build interoperability and maximize their time with the six Allied ships steaming with GRFCSG.

Heck, Ford even has a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm aviator on exchange, pushing F-18s off her deck.

221112-N-DN657-1160 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 12, 2022) Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Sharp, a British exchange officer assigned to the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, conducts his final carrier landing on the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck, Nov. 12, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zack Guth) VIRIN: 221112-N-DN657-1160

Either way, though, it is refreshing to see arguably the world’s most advanced supercarrier flanked by nine escorts including a half-dozen supplied by long-time allies.

Of special interest is the use of extra large ensigns in the photo-ex to include the battle flags of Hudner and Normandy as well as “Warship 78’s” own blue and yellow ship’s pennant.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 25, 2022) The first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) flies its battle flag while steaming in formation with German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), Dutch frigate HNLMS Van Amstel (F 831), and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), Oct. 25, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zack Guth). VIRIN: 221025-N-DN657-1130

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 7, 2022) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), the Danish frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes (FFH 362), the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) steam in the Atlantic Ocean in formation, Nov. 7, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zack Guth). VIRIN: 221107-N-DN657-1114

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 7, 2022) The first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) steams in the Atlantic Ocean in formation with the Spanish Armada frigate Álvaro de Bazán (F 101), the German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), the Danish frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes (FFH 362), the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 337), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), Nov. 7, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jackson Adkins). VIRIN: 221107-N-TL968-2188

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 7, 2022) The first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) steams in the Atlantic Ocean in formation with the German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), Danish frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes (FFH 362), Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), Spanish Armada frigate Álvaro de Bazán (F 101), Dutch frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provincien (F 802), French frigate FS Chevalier Paul (D 621), Dutch frigate HNLMS Van Amstel (F 831) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74), Nov. 7, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Mattingly) VIRIN: 221107-N-HJ055-2447

Ford Carrier Group to Actually Deploy Next Week (Kinda)

220917-N-TU663-1095 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 17, 2022) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations, Sept. 17, 2022. Gerald R. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications and workups for a scheduled deployment this fall. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel Perez)

Just a brief 1,899 days after she was commissioned, “Warship 78” will head out on her (likely brief) inaugural deployment.

Class leader USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)— full of untried technology such as Advanced Weapons Elevators, advanced arrest gear, new and 25 percent more powerful Bechtel A1B reactors, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, while being crewed by a complement almost a third smaller than the same sized supercarriers she will be replacing (2,600 on Ford vs 3,532 on Nimitz)– has had lots of teething problems to be sure.

But they think the bugs are all worked out. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 13, 2022) Aircraft attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 sit on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck as the ship steams through the Atlantic Ocean, April 13, 2022. Ford is underway conducting carrier qualifications and strike group integration prior to operational deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riley McDowell)

First ordered in 2008, her story is a decade and a half in the making and, following months of post-delivery tests and trials (PDT&T), Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST), repairs, retrofitting, and flight deck certification with CVW-8 and supporting ops of Training Wing (TW 1), U.S. Fleet Forces Command announced yesterday she would operationally deploy to the 2nd Fleet on 3 October– Monday.

Her carrier group won’t go far– largely still in the North Atlantic– and won’t be gone long, working through eight phases and just one scheduled (but undisclosed) foreign port call, but it will be operational.

Now, Ford won’t have a full airwing but will carry aircraft of each of CVW-8s eight squadrons, and be escorted by three destroyers (USS Ramage, USS McFaul, USS Thomas Hudner) and a beautiful endangered cruiser (USS Normandy) along with a National Security Cutter (USCGC Hamilton) and two MSC-manned auxiliaries (a T-AO and a T-AKE). Further, she will be joined at sea at least part of the time by at least 13 Allied ships and submarines supplied by Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. A NATO-ish task force, in other words.

With the whole Nordstream situation and the tensions in Eastern Europe, the deployment is timely.

As noted by the Navy:

Ford is the flagship of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) and their first operational deployment will include air, maritime, and ground assets from NATO Allies and partner nations. The strike group will set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, and will operate in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group will deploy, integrating with Allies and partners, to demonstrate its unmatched, multi-domain, full-spectrum lethality in the Atlantic,” said Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “This trans-Atlantic deployment will strengthen our relationships, capacity, and trust to forge a more peaceful and prosperous world by leveraging the ‘One Atlantic’ Command and Control Concept.”

Innovation and interoperability are the key focal points of the GRFCSG’s deployment, allowing allied and partner nations to strengthen the collective defense of the Atlantic as well as to mature integration for future operations.

“The Atlantic is an area of strategic interest,” said Vice Adm. Dan Dwyer, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Our primary goal is to contribute to a peaceful, stable, and conflict-free Atlantic region through the combined naval power of our Allies and partners. The deployment of USS Gerald R. Ford’s carrier strike group is the natural progression of our renewed commitment to the Atlantic.”

Along with Allies and partners, the GRFCSG will focus training on air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, distributed maritime operations, mine countermeasures, and amphibious operations.

“This deployment is an opportunity to push the ball further down the field and demonstrate the advantage that Ford and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 bring to the future of naval aviation, to the region, and to our Allies and partners,” said Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12.

Still, it is about time and the Navy says Ford will deploy on a more expeditionary six-month-ish cruise next year, so look at this Fall Excursion as a dress rehearsal.

Is Warship 78 Actually just over the Horizon?

The very troublesome new first-in-class supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has a lot of gee-whiz improvements over the 10 tried-and-true Nimitz class flattops which have been the backbone of Naval Aviation since the 1990s when they surpassed the legacy “smokers” of the Midway, Forrestal, and Kitty Hawk class in numbers. This includes a new nuclear plant with the (crucial) ability to generate nearly three times the amount of electrical power, an innovative advanced arresting gear, and the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) that enables the Navy to leave the old (reliable) steam gear behind, and other improvements that lead to a huge ship that requires fewer Bluejackets to sail and fight.

One of the improvements was the promised Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE) which the Navy billed as “using several advanced technologies including electromagnetic motors vice more labor-intensive, hydraulic systems,” that enables fewer sailors to safely move ordnance from weapons magazines to the flight deck with unparalleled speed and agility.”

The thing is, they didn’t work and the contractor has been scrambling for years to get them fixed. Finally, on Wednesday PEO Aircraft Carriers reported that the 11th and final AWE has been installed and turned over to Ford’s crew.


Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department, receive MK-82 500-pound class inert bombs on one of Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, May 30, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)

“This is a significant milestone for the Navy, ship, and her crew,” said RADM James P. Downey, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers. “With the completion of this final AWE, we now have the entire system to operate and train with.”

The work comes as Ford is at Newport News Shipyard in support of her Planned Incremental Availability (PIA), a six-month period of modernization, maintenance, and repairs, that began in September. When she emerges in March 2022, she will start workups for her inaugural deployment.

Keep in mind that she has already gone through 21 months of post-delivery tests and trials (PDT&T) and Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST), as she was delivered to the Navy by Newport News in May 2017 after eight years of construction.

Now to get EMALS working. Designed to achieve 4,166 aircraft launches between operational mission failures, a DoD report earlier this year said it went 181 launches between failures, or “well below the requirement.” 

It’s not like USS Nimitz was laid down in 1968 or anything…

This looks bad when you consider the Brits have, with a smaller shipbuilding industry and without having crafted a large-deck carrier since the 1950s, was able to construct their new 65,000-ton carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)— laid down the same year as Ford— by 2017 and just completed an extensive halfway-around-the-world deployment with her, albeit with some of help from “The Colonies.”

Let’s hope this lengthy teething period will help streamline the (successful) delivery of Ford’s classmates, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80), and Doris Miller (CVN 81).

Likewise, Navy Air is not standing still, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation Demonstration (UCAD) of the MQ-25A unmanned air system prototype aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) has been going on this month, and shows promise, especially when it comes to halting the waste of using half the fleet’s Hornets to refuel the other half for strikes further than 400 miles out.

Comparing old- and new-school U.S. flattops

The $13 billion supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the inaugural ship of her class, has been underway for the past week or so in the Atlantic with the bulk of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 along for the ride– her largest aircraft embark to date— trying to work out some persistent bugs (more on that in a minute) but in doing so has was part of an amazing 40+ photo ex with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), whose strike group is returning home from a crazy long 270+ day cruise with 5th and 6th Fleet.

(U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Riley McDowell/Released)

The 4 June passing was the first time a Ford-class and a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier have operated together underway.

The ships are near dead-ringers in size and general layout. Truman, the eighth Nimitz-class ship (last of the Flight II/Theodore Roosevelt subclass), was commissioned 25 July 1998 while Ford has been extensively working up since 2017.

Note that Ford has nearly 30 aircraft on deck, mostly Rhinos.

Both carriers tip the scales at around 100,000 tons and are the same general overall length within about a Volkswagen’s Beetle worth of difference (1,092 ft. on Truman, 1,106 ft. on Ford).

Unseen below deck, Truman carries a pair of older Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors, while Ford has newer Bechtel A1B nuclear reactors, with the latter reportedly cranking out about 25% more power while having a smaller footprint.

The islands are extremely different.

Truman carries AN/SPS-48E 3-D and AN/SPS-49(V)5 2-D air search radars along with a host of ATC and landing radars. Ford is equipped with AN/SPY-3 and AN/SPY-4 active electronically scanned array multi-function radar and her island is both 20 feet taller than that of the Nimitz class and is 140 feet further aft while being a yard closer to the edge of the ship (watch your step!)

Of note, the Navy was able to wave the banner of having seven carriers at sea at the same time for a couple weeks, anyway. Also a rarity.

Controversially, Ford has two other things that the proven steam-catapult equipped Nimitz class does not: the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is supposed to boost the number of sorties she can generate per day by 25 %, and advanced weapons and aircraft elevators. The thing is, both systems are buggy as hell, with the Navy basically being the Beta Tester on them.

For example, on June 2, just prior to a scheduled flight deck operation cycle, the ship’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) went down. Loss of EMALS curtailed flight operations to some extent, but the Strike Group, ship, and air wing team still accomplished significant goals scheduled for the Ford-class aircraft carrier.

After several days of troubleshooting and assessing a fault in the launch system’s power handling elements, embarked EMALS experts and Ford’s crew restored the system to enable the safe fly-off of the air wing on Sunday morning, June 7.

Five days with no catapult is for sure no Bueno for a carrier, although she was able to eventually pull off, “day and night cyclic flight operations totaling 324 catapult launches and arrested landings, qualifying 50 pilots,” during the weeklong period.

The weapons generator seem to be working a bit better:

200530-N-NX070-1123 ATLANTIC OCEAN (May 30, 2020) Aviation Ordnancemen assigned to the weapons department aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) bring inert training bombs up to the flight deck during flight operations, May 30, 2020. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting integrated air wing operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist RJ Stratchko/Released)

The air wing’s embark provided the first opportunity for Ford’s weapons department to execute a full ordnance movement using a lower stage weapons elevator. Performing as advertised, Ford’s AWEs conducted more than 1,300 cycles during this latest at sea period that enabled the successful transfer of 176 inert bombs in support of air wing operations. Ford’s AWEs have conducted over 10,000 cycles to date.

On the bright side, Ford was able to verify that her tactical data links are working and she embarked a strike group commander recently.

As noted:

Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 also embarked on Ford during this underway, marking the first time a Strike Group Commander and staff embarked on Ford for operations. CSG-12 was able to successfully conduct all intended command and control operations, control and distribute the link picture, and coordinate with Ford and Truman Strike Group assets as well as higher headquarters. Rear Adm. Craig Clapperton, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 assessed that the Strike Group and ship are ahead of schedule in this important command and control domain.

Most importantly, at least they got a Final Countdown photo for the cruise book…

200607-N-NX070-1076 ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 7, 2020) The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) steams through a storm in the Atlantic Ocean June 7, 2020, before disembarking Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, following successfully integrated air wing operations. Ford is underway conducting an independent steaming event. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist RJ Stratchko/Released)

Ford marks 1K trap, cat

Looks like the Ford is actually getting the kinks worked out of its new-fangled electromagnetic cats and upgraded arresting gear.

From the NAVY:

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) — An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, landed aboard USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck marking the 1,000th recovery of a fixed-wing aircraft using Ford’s Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) March 19, 2020, at 5:13 p.m.

Minutes later, the crew celebrated a second milestone launching an F/A18 E Super Hornet attached to “Warhawks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97 from Ford’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) catapults for the 1,000th time.

This significant milestone in the ships’ history began on July 28, 2017, with Ford’s first fixed-wing recovery and launch using its first-in-class AAG and EMALS technologies.

Capt. J.J. “Yank” Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer, explained how the entire Ford crew has worked together over the last few years to reach this achievement.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew, their motivation is amazing,” said Cummings. “We’ve been working extremely hard to get here today, and to see this 1,000th trap completely validates their efforts and the technology on this warship.”

Boasting the Navy’s first major design investment in aircraft carriers since the 1960s, Ford’s AAG and EMALs support greater launch and recovery energy requirements of future air wings, increasing the safety margin over legacy launch and arresting gear found on Nimitz-class carriers.

Lt. Scott Gallagher, assigned to VFA 34, has landed on five other carriers but became a part of Ford’s history with his, and the ship’s 1,000, recovery.

“There are a lot of people who are working night and day to make sure that this ship is ready to go be a warship out in the world,” said Gallagher. “To be a part of that, and this deck certification is super cool. Also getting the 1,000th trap helps the ship get one step closer to being the warship that it needs to be.”

Capt. Joshua Sager, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, explained why his squadron’s integration with the ship’s personnel is important and how their relationship impacts operations.

“It’s great to share this moment in history with Ford. Integration between the air wing and ship’s company is crucial to the everyday success of carrier operations,” said Sager. “Completion of the 1,000th catapult and arrestment shows that the ship and her crew have tested and proven the newest technology the Navy has, and together we are ready to meet the operational requirements of our nation.”

With 1,000 launches and recoveries complete, Ford will continue its flight deck and combat air traffic control certifications in preparation to deliver to the fleet regular flight operations in support of East Coast carrier qualifications.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 19, 2020) Lt. Scott “Gameday” Gallagher lands an F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, for the 1,000th trap on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck during flight operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Prill)

Warship 78?

The new aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been getting lots of knocks in the past few years and with good reason. Commissioned, 22 July 2017, now going on three years in service, and she has been far from being considered “fleet ready” with tons of post-delivery updates and modifications that have been pushed through as shakedown and availability proved many of the ship’s vital systems to include her cats, traps, and elevators, just plain didn’t work.

(A)SECNAV Thomas Modly on getting the ship on track and getting it right.

However, as a sign of improvements, Ford just completed Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT) Jan. 31, following 16 days at sea, during which the crew launched and recovered 211 aircraft, testing five different airframes, using first-generation, state-of-the-art flight deck systems.

As noted by the Navy: “This second and final round of testing validated the ship’s capability to launch and to recover aircraft with ordnance loadout and fuel states mirroring deployed requirements and operating tempos, using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG)—two Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) systems unique to Ford.”

By completing T-45 testing, the Ford will be able to provide carrier qualification support to the Training Command and to student naval aviators in the jet/E-2/C-2 pipeline.

“There are so many firsts happening, and many of them we frankly don’t even really realize,” explained Ford’s Air Boss, Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem toward the end of the testing evolution. “We’ve had the first-ever T-45, EA-18 Growler, E-2D Hawkeye, and C-2A Greyhound, and there are pilots on board this ship right now who will forever be able to say that their contribution to the Navy was to be the first pilot or NFO [Naval Flight Officer] to come aboard the Gerald R. Ford-class in that type aircraft.”

Gerald, turning and burning

Just the Ford making some high-speed turns on 29 October. Looks pretty good for a carrier that has been sidelined for the past 15 months in post-delivery repairs err, post-shakedown availability.

Hopefully she will meet the Navy’s new guideline of being operational “well before” 2024.

Note the extensive arrays on her island.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Connor Loessin)

Looks like Ford can catch, and receive

ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 28, 2017) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The aircraft carrier is underway conducting test and evaluation operations.(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)

The Navy recently validated a software fix for the revolutionary Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System used on the latest batch of supercarriers. This resulted in the first cat and trap when an F/A-18F Super Hornet (BuNo #166969) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Jamie “Coach” Struck, being launched and recovered on the flight deck of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) 28 July 2017. Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations.

Trap

Cat