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USS Ford Completes Second Shock Trial and Prepares to Deploy

shock trial
Image courtesy USN

Published Jul 22, 2021 9:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

The first-in-class carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has passed her second shock trial, marking the midpoint in the explosive test regime the Navy uses to prove survivability in the event of a near miss. For the second time, the service detonated a 40,000 pound bomb near Ford's hull at a position off the coast of Florida, and she came out of the experience well, according to her commanding officer.

"We’ve gained a deeper understanding of our ship’s robust capabilities by enduring these 40,000-pound blasts," said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, CO of USS Ford. "This insight promises even more success in all aspects of our warfighting posture. As we celebrate the four year anniversary of our ship’s commissioning, we deeply appreciate the efforts by the generations of sailors who got the ship this far."

Though four of her 11 mission-critical weapons elevators are still inoperable and she is not fitted to accommodate the new F-35 fighter, the USS Ford is making ready to partner up with cruisers and destroyers, form a carrier strike group and deploy.

"Based on Ford's performance during the independent steaming events and Full Ship Shock Trials, we'll be entering the integration period of the strike group and air wing with the utmost confidence in ship's force," said Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 12. "The approaching maiden deployment will show the world that Ford is truly a leading-edge platform."

Ford's reputation has been challenged over the course of a well-publicized, multi-year effort to bring her up to combat capability. Her launching system, arresting gear, advanced radar and weapons elevators have all displayed varying degrees of unreliability during commissioning, drawing scrutiny from the Pentagon's testing watchdog and from members of Congress. After Rep. Elaine Luria (a Navy veteran and a former cruiser XO) likened Ford to a "nuclear-powered floating berthing barge" in a 2020 congressional hearing, the Navy has pointedly referred to the vessel as "Warship 78" rather than her hull number designation, CVN 78.

In a recent interview, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday admitted that Ford's journey to readiness has been at times a "painful" process.

"The ammunition elevators are an exceptional example of a painful process over the past four or five years," Gilday said, acknowledging the longstanding difficulties in getting Ford's 11 electromagnetic weapons elevators running. At the time of her delivery in 2017, none of the elevators were operable, and the Navy and its contractors have only managed to bring seven out of 11 online over the intervening years - even after recruiting a team of outside advisers and allocating 18 extra months for a post-commissioning shakedown.