NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Navy officials announced on Saturday that Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford had successfully completed Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials (CSSQT).

“I could not be more proud of our Sailors and their historic accomplishment,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer. “CSSQT was a live-fire, hands-on opportunity to prove the self-defense capability of this fine warship.”

The USS Gerald R. Ford, a first-in-class aircraft carrier, is the first of its kind designed in more than 40 years.

CSSQT wrapped up on April 17, representing a milestone in validating the ship’s defense capability. The trials started in February and were made up of five phases.

According to the ship’s CSSQT project officer, Larry Daugherty, phase 2C was the “prove it” phase for the ship.

During that time, Ford was exposed to rocket-propelled drones, towed drone units (TDU) that simulate rockets, and remote-controlled, high-speed maneuvering surface targets (HSMST).

The crew countered with rolling airframe missile (RAM) launchers, firing off RIM-116 missiles; the NATO launchers to fire the evolved sea sparrow missiles (ESSM), and the Mk-15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) to fire tungsten bullets at 4,500 rounds per minute.

“Those Sailors not only took out the first two HSMSTs, they punched holes in them, set them on fire, and they both sank,” said Daugherty. “On the third one, the CIWS operator was so good that he actually hit the target further out than the weapon system’s maximum effective range and put it [dead in the water] DIW.”

“The crew crushed it, firing off four missiles… they executed perfectly,” said Daugherty.

As the first crew to fire Ford’s missiles and complete this mission, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Todd Williamson, Ford’s fire control officer, acknowledges the trials as a huge accomplishment. “For Weapons Department and Combat Systems Department, it was two 18-hour back-to-back days just to get set-up and complete telemetry checks,” he said.

The telemetry checks provide the capability to record the flight performance characteristics and fusing of RAM and ESSM missiles to ensure they are capable of hitting their intended targets, according to Daugherty.

CSSQT is the culminating combat systems test of Ford’s 18-month post-delivery test and trials (PDT&T) phase of operations.

Following PDT&T this month, Ford will start prepping for Full Ship Shock Trials. The additional trials test the ability of new construction ships to carry out assigned missions and evaluate operational survivability after exposure to an underwater shock.

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Douglas Huyge has been aboard the Ford for two years.

“[CSSQT] was probably the single-handed greatest feeling I’ve felt on this ship so far,” said Huyge, describing how he felt watching the live-fire evolution in CDC, after many years of hard work. “I would say what I felt was fulfillment. It was a high level of fulfillment.”

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