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Gerald R Ford passes aircraft compatibility tests but concerns remain

Warship Technology: March 2020Aircraft Carrier

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) completed Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT) on 31 January 2020, following 16 days at sea, during which the crew launched and recovered 211 aircraft, testing five different airframes.


The testing phase included the first-ever underway catapult launches and arrested landings for the T-45 Goshawk and E/A-18G Growler from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23); as well as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound, from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20).  Crews also tested F/A-18F Super Hornets from VX-23, which earlier had conducted initial compatibility tests on board Ford in 2017.


This second and final round of testing validated the ship’s capability to launch and to recover aircraft with ordnance loadout and fuel states mirroring deployed requirements and operating tempos, using  the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), two aircraft launch and recovery equipment (ALRE) systems unique to Ford.


The ACTs may have passed off well, but a report published in January 2020 by the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation suggests that a lot remains to be done to fix many other problems with the carrier.


The report said poor or unknown reliability of systems critical for flight operations – including the newly-designed catapults, arresting gear, weapons elevators, and radar – could affect the ability of CVN 78 to generate sorties. Reliability of these critical subsystems poses the most significant risk to the


CVN 78 IOT&E timeline.