NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier has successfully completed aircraft compatibility testing off the coast.
The U.S. Navy says the testing was finished Jan. 31 after 16 days at sea.
On Jan. 23, WAVY News gave a glimpse into what that testing looked like aboard the carrier, including making sure that various types of aircraft can launch and recover in a variety of environments.
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,” the Navy wrote in a news release.
The aircraft landings aboard the ship tested the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), two systems unique to the carrier.
“There are so many firsts happening, and many of them we frankly don’t even really realize,” said Air Boss Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem.
“This success is the result of the hard work and collaboration of the men and women in the entire ALRE team, including our government personnel and industry partner General Atomics, and fleet,” said Capt. Kenneth Sterbenz, program manager of the ALRE office. “I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together, and am fully confident in our ALRE systems moving forward, especially with the backing of our highly dedicated and professional ALRE team.”
Now, the Flight Deck Certification (FDC) phase is one of the next steps. The phase is currently scheduled for March, when Ford crew and the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) Eight will take over all aspects of flight operations.
“We’re seeing the ship come to life. Just over the last few weeks, we’ve got salt air on the flight deck, we’ve got skid marks on the flight deck, and it’s really starting to feel like an aircraft carrier,” Akacem said.