Here Comes the Ford
The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of 10 planned ‘supercarriers,’ completed its third and final shock trial earlier this year. The Navy detonated 40,000 pounds of explosives in the ship’s vicinity during the test, creating a giant shock wave that traveled through the water and onto the ship.
The Ford’s trials validated the ship’s design — completed with extensive 3D computer modeling — and ensure that the aircraft carrier would not only survive the rigors of battle but maintain fighting readiness even after taking a hit, termed the ship’s ‘fight-through’ capability.
A U.S. Navy manager for the Navy’s future aircraft carrier program office emphasized that “the tests demonstrated—and proved to the crew, fairly dramatically—that the ship will be able to withstand formidable shocks and continue to operate under extreme conditions.”
During a call with reporters, the USS Ford’s commanding officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta said they had “zero catastrophic failures on the ship, zero situations where we had flooding or anything, and zero fires. All that is pretty significant.”
Gerald R. Ford-class ‘Supercarriers’
The expectation placed on the USS Gerald R. Ford and the other nine Gerald R. Ford-class carriers is immense, as the U.S. Navy is “designing and building these aircraft carriers to sail in some of the world’s most contested security environments,” program executive officer for aircraft carriers Rear Adm. James P. Downey explained in a U.S. Navy press statement.
“So when you think about the threats to warships posed by non-contact blasts and the number of sea mines in the inventories of navies around the world, the gravity, and consequence of these shock trials really come into focus. The Navy’s ongoing investment in the design, including this modeling, will help ensure the resiliency of Ford’s integrated, mission-critical systems in underway threat environments.”
As the USS Gerald R. Ford’s shock trials are now completed, the carrier will transit to the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia. The ship will begin its Planned Incremental Availability, or PIA, and a series of modernizations, maintenance, and repairs over the next six months. The carrier’s PIA is the last maintenance and repair phase before active deployment is scheduled for next year.
Ultimately the Gerald R. Ford-class of supercarriers will replace the United States Navy’s current fleet of Nimitz-class carriers on a one-to-one basis; they’re also the first major redesign of American aircraft carriers since the 1960s. As a result, not only is the Ford-class the largest aircraft carrier in the world — but they’re also the largest warships ever built for any navy.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.