USS Gerald R. Ford successfully sails into post-shakedown availability period

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, sailed from Naval Station Norfolk to Newport News Shipbuilding on Sunday to start its post-shakedown availability period.

The shipyard says the Ford was moved to Pier 3 at the yard, where it will undergo "a maintenance period typical of newly delivered warships." That work is expected to include modifications, upgrades, and system improvements.

The work is scheduled for 12 months.

“We have been planning for the Ford’s return to Newport News since it was delivered last year,” said Bill Smith, Newport News’ vice president of fleet support programs. “This availability is the next important milestone in the life of the ship. We have worked closely with our Navy partners to identify first-in-class issues that came along during the test and evaluation program and look forward to resolving them."

According to the Navy, since being delivered in May 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford has operated for 81 days at sea during seven independent steaming events, successfully completing a variety of testing and qualifications that the Navy put the carrier through.

“My team has completed a very important phase in Ford’s lifecycle,” said Ford’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Richard McCormack. “The shakedown period was an opportunity for the Navy to run the ship through a rigorous set of operational tasks and assess her performance. My team of talented Sailors, shipyard workers, and program engineers have learned a great deal from our time at sea and provided critical feedback on performance to Navy and industry leaders. We now enter a post-shakedown availability period to incorporate several design changes to correct performance deficiencies and complete the installation of other systems needed to ensure the ship, her embarked airwing and the strike group are ready to support national tasking when called upon by the President.”

The USS Gerald R. Ford also made history during its shakedown period by being the first-ever U.S. Navy ship to execute Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) launches.

The Navy added that Ford’s Air Department, combined with the efforts of Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding and Naval Air Systems Command Joint Test Group, successfully executed complete system testing events for all 13 redesigned Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment weapon systems.

“Daily, our extraordinary team of Sailors brings engineering concepts to life aboard this amazing warship,” said Executive Officer Captain Brent Gaut. “Time and again, our Sailors have demonstrated their excellence and subject matter expertise, some in areas unique to all of naval aviation, in support of Ford-class development and enhancement. Our Sailors represent the best of the best, and we could not be more proud of what they have accomplished individually, and more importantly as a team.”

Before becoming an active member of the Navy's fleet, the Ford will undergo a variety of modifications and tune-ups, which will fix what was assessed on the ship during its shakedown period.