USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first-in-class of the Navy’s newest generation of Ford-class aircraft carriers. It’s been nearly 40 years since the Navy has commissioned a new generation of aircraft carriers. With change comes history that has to be made. Ford has done just that.
With new technologies and advancements in multiple different systems compared to legacy class carriers, Ford is ahead of its time leaving the history in the past and paving its own future.
The keel of the Ford was laid on Nov. 14, 2009. Laying the keel is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. The ceremony was attended by Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilders and members of the United States Navy. In earlier times, keel laying was when the first placement of the central timber took place, but as steel ships replaced wooden ones, the central timber gave way to a steel beam.
Christening is a ceremonial ship launching where the vessel is transferred to the water. On Nov. 9, 2013, the Ford was christened by Susan Ford-Bales, the daughter of Gerald R. Ford.
“For the United States of America, I christen thee Gerald R. Ford,” Ford-Bales said, ending the ship’s final moments ashore. A traditional shattering of a champagne bottle across the ship’s bow christened the ship.
USS Gerald R. Ford was commissioned July 22, 2017, by President Donald J. Trump. The commissioning ceremony marks the entry of a ship into active naval service. This was the day Ford took her place in the fleet alongside the other ships.
The first trap or fixed wing aircraft landing was July 28, 2017, when an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Jamie “Coach” Struck, performed an arrested landing aboard Ford.
Ford entered an 18-month Post-Delivery Test and Trials period in late October 2019. The test and trials period are designed to stress critical combat systems and to exercise the flight deck, with the goal of ensuring the ship’s overall deployment readiness.
During this time the Ford performed exceptionally well, and conducted a series of 11 Independent Steaming Events that were interlaced with shore-based Maintenance Windows of Opportunity. Over the 18-month testing time, the Ford exercised installed systems, conducted crew training, and completed construction and activation of select shipboard systems.
Over the course of four months in 2021, Ford withstood the impact of three 40,000-pound underwater blasts, also known as Full Ship Shock Trials. Shock trials are a testing period that proves the validation of the ship’s ability to sustain operations in a simulated combat environment using live ordinance. The tests demonstrated that the ship will be able to withstand formidable shocks and continue to operate under extreme conditions.
Ford finished its Flight Deck Certification and Carrier Air Traffic Control Center Certification on March 29, 2022. Once out at sea, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2 Hawkeyes, MH-60R Seahawks, E/A-18G Growlers and MH-60S Knighthawks assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 conducted operations to prove the ship’s and crew’s capabilities. Ford’s flight deck certification and carrier qualifications are part of the basic tailored training phase prior to the ship’s first deployment.
The Ford is currently doing workups, which are a series of underway periods conducting training, running drills, conducting flight operations, and completing certifications in preparation for its first deployment and the U.S. Navy’s first Ford-class full deployment. The Ford and its crew has gained a huge amount of experience and training since it was built and are going to be thriving during the upcoming deployments.
Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexander Timewell, USS Gerald R. Ford Public Affairs.