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After successful first sea trials, future USS Gerald R. Ford prepares for what’s next

NORFOLK, Va. - The Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford returned to Hampton Roads Friday after getting underway at sea for the first time.

The Ford spent seven days at sea in what is known as Builder's Sea Trials.

Those sea trials included members of the Ford's crew, representatives from Newport News Shipbuilding and several Navy components working together to test and demonstrate many of the ship's key components and systems.

Included in the trials were tests of tracking aircraft using Dual Band Radar, small boat operations, and conducting "no load" cycles using the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system.

“Everybody has to work together to really exercise the ship and take it through its final paces,” said Rolf Bartschi, Newport News Shipbuilding’s vice president of Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) carrier construction. “We work to test the systems and actually operate the ship out here at sea. It’s fantastic to be out and really see this ship come to life.”

In a statement from Naval Sea Systems Command, the Navy said "As is typical with sea trials, the Navy and shipbuilder learned a great deal about the ship's performance during the extensive testing. Analysis continues, and any identified corrective actions will be addressed."

The Ford-class of carriers features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults, improved weapons movement and an enhanced flight deck which will increase aircraft sortie rates.

It's believed each Ford-class carrier will operate with a smaller crew than its predecessors in the Nimitz class.

"About 35 percent more combat power from [the Ford] than the previous class and for less money over the lifetime of the program," Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, told News 3's Todd Corillo.

The PCU Ford is now docked at Naval Station Norfolk, alongside Nimitz-class carriers.

According to the Navy, the Ford is on track to conduct acceptance trials and then be delivered to the Navy this spring.