Repairs on New Carrier USS Ford's Propulsion System Complete

USS Ford under way during sea trials (file image courtesy USN)

Published Aug 13, 2019 2:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

After more than a year of maintenance and repairs, the Navy has accepted re-delivery of the propulsion plant for the new carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, bringing the ship incrementally closer to deployment. In a statement, the Navy said that sailors and Newport News shipyard personnel logged 400,000 man-hours of work to reach this repair milestone. 

“With hard work, innovation, and teamwork, reactor department Sailors and their shipyard counterparts together have achieved a major milestone," said Cmdr. Emily Bassett, the USS Ford's reactor officer. "We now enter the transition phase, where our focus shifts from a shipyard production work mindset to a ship’s force operational and maintenance mindset."

Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the vessel's nuclear reactors themselves. The primary problems stemmed from the main thrust bearing failures that the vessel suffered in 2017 and 2018. The bearings, manufactured by General Electric under its contract for the Ford's propulsion system, were apparently made with "machining errors," the root cause of the failures. 

The additional work on Ford has pushed her acquisition cost beyond the $13 billion mark, and the efforts to fix her troubled weapons elevators continue.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. 

“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."