USS Ford Takes a Key Step Towards Functionality

Loading 500-pound inert dummy bombs onto Ford's first functional lower-stage elevator (USN)

Published Jun 2, 2020 4:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has taken a big step towards front-line operability by using both weapons elevator stages to carry ordnance for the first time ever. 

Three years after she was delivered to the Navy, Ford's set of advanced weapons elevators remains incomplete. The elevators are essential for hoisting munitions from her magazines up to deck level so that her fighter aircraft can rearm between sorties.

In April, technicians from the Navy and the HII Newport News finished and certified her first functional lower-stage elevator, LSWE 5. That elevator - which serves the aft magazine - was put to the test May 30 during Ford's largest carrier air wing embark to date, with seven squadrons and about 30 fixed-wing aircraft on board at the same time. The embark was the first opportunity for Ford’s weapons department to try out a full ordnance movement using both lower-stage and upper-stage elevators. More than 250 sailors trained up to complete the evolution. (The training used inert dummy bombs, not live munitions.)

Now that Ford can transfer ordnance from bottom to top, her air wing was able to execute all of its missions on board Ford for the first time. 

“We’re thrilled to be here dropping light and heavy inert ordnance; but the biggest thing as the air wing commander is to do our primary mission: war at sea, air defense, air superiority and power projection,” air wing commander Capt. Josh Sager said in a statement. “We’re taking [the vessel] from carrier qualification to a mission that focuses on combat operations and expanding that capability."

“This is a historic underway – we embarked nearly 1,000 sailors, the largest air wing embark to date, and we were able to commence cyclic operations and it’s proven successful,” said Ford's CO, Capt. J.J. Cummings. “It’s exciting to have the air wing onboard and get into their spaces and berthings so they can help us tighten things up to where they want them to be.”

Next, the Navy aims to complete and certify one lower-stage elevator for Ford's forward magazine, then finish the remaining elevators by the time Ford enters shock trials next year.