Navy Launches "Make Ford Ready" Carrier Initiative

USS Ford on sea trials (USN)

Published Jan 9, 2020 5:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modley has created a brand for the repair work on the first-in-class carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. The fault rectification and commissioning effort for the $13 billion supercarrier is now known as the “Make Ford Ready” initiative. 

On Thursday, as part of his “Make Ford Ready” program, Modly convened a summit for about 50 senior Navy and shipbuilding industry leaders to talk about transitioning Ford into fleet operations as quickly as possible.

“While this is an 'all hands on deck' priority that can only be accomplished through the dedicated efforts of the Ford team, it will also require broad, department-wide encouragement, enthusiasm, and support for our shipmates and industry partners,” said Modly. “We all have a stake in the success of this effort - for the future of our Navy, our national security, and security of the world.”

Modly's predecessor, Richard Spencer, was dismissed in November, and President Donald Trump's frustration with the Ford program has been cited as a contributing factor in Spencer's removal. In a recent memo, Modly stressed that under his watch, the Navy is going to "make Ford ready," employing all hands on deck and working as “one team, relentlessly focused."

“I’m extremely bullish on Ford - and our Navy should be too,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday.  “While good progress has been made over the past several months, together we must keep Ford headed in the right direction and get her where she needs to be – operating forward at sea to reassure allies, deter adversaries, and protect our national interests around the world.” 

Advance work on USS Ford began back in 2005 for a planned 2015 delivery, with R&D proceeding in parallel with construction. The delivery schedule gradually slipped to 2017, and costs ballooned to $12.9 billion - more than any nation has ever paid for a warship. Despite the cost, the Navy accepted her in an incomplete state and with known deficiencies, including problems with her catapults, arresting gear and elevators. Multiple additional issues with propulsion were discovered in sea trials, necessitating long post-shakedown repairs. 

Many of these issues have since been resolved, the Navy says, but with the extended timeline for repairs and testing, NAVSEA commander Vice Adm. Thomas Moore has indicated that USS Ford may not enter service until 2024 - six years behind schedule and almost two decades after the first construction began. 

On October 23, Congresswoman Elaine Luria (a former Navy cruiser XO) slammed US Ford as a “$13 billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge," citing Ford's long tenure at the pier at Newport News. Within the week, Ford put to sea with work on her mission-critical weapons elevators still unfinished.

The Navy says that Ford has performed exceptionally well during two underway test and training periods since she departed Newport News. Her current test-and-trial phase is scheduled to continue through mid-2021.