U.S. Navy Calls for Outside Help to Fix USS Ford's Elevators

The interior of a weapons elevator aboard USS Ford (USN)

Published Jul 1, 2019 9:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy is bringing in an independent team of experts to help it fix intractable problems with the carrier USS Gerald R. Ford's weapons elevators. These basic components of Ford's onboard infrastructure are essential for carrying munitions up to the flight deck for prepping aircraft; without them, Ford cannot arm her fighters. Unlike those aboard previous generations of American carriers, Ford's elevators are electromagnetically powered, and the technology behind them was not developed to maturity before installation. 

If they can achieve design capacity, the new elevators will each move 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet per minute - twice as much weight and 50 percent faster than the elevators on a Nimitz-class carrier. However, only two out of the 11 elevators on board USS Ford work, and both are in the upper stage. Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford's ordnance handling officer, said in a statement that the carrier's team is becoming "better able to anticipate and diagnose any technical issues that may arise" with the operation of the two functioning units. 

“We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators,” said James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. “We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible - they will also recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class."

The outside experts specialize in electromagnetic systems, fabrication and production control, software, systems integration, and electrical engineering. Guerts said that they will focus on getting USS Ford's elevators working and recommending design changes for the other ships in the class, like those already under construction. 

In a step typically taken before design and construction, the Navy is also constructing a land-based testbed system to allow it to "mature and troubleshoot" the equipment. The Navy and the shipbuilder are also completing a digital twin at the shipyard facility in Newport News that will be ready in fall 2019. 

USS Ford is scheduled to depart the shipyard in October.