USS Gerald R. Ford takes another step in its long, and expensive, journey
By DAVE RESS | The Daily Press | Published: March 11, 2021
(Tribune News Service) — From the fantail of USS Gerald R.
Making sure the Close-in Weapons System Mount 23 — a combination multiple-barrel cannon, capable of firing 4,500 rounds a minute, tied to radar and computers — can do its job of knocking down missiles or aircraft is just one part of one of the last big tasks in the carrier’s year-and-half long post-delivery test and trial period.
Williamson and his team are in the midst of combat systems qualifications — making sure Ford’s guns, radar, communications and command and control systems can do what the
At the same time, pilots are using the carrier for flights to earn certification in taking off and landing at sea — which explains those fighters screaming past Williamson’s station every couple of minutes.
To do that, the
One is the electromagnet-based catapult system that drew presidential ire when
One reason the
That box shows the pilot and the shooter in the “bubble,” the control station just peeking up over the deck, a precise readout on the plane’s weight. With that information, the shooter can program the catapult to precisely match the force used to the actual weight of the plane.
“F equals M A — it means we can reduce the stress on the plane,” said Capt.
The certification flights also amasses the data that Capt.
The work testing and training on combat systems during Ford’s current turn at sea, which started last week, follows a pierside maintenance and material management assessment by the Naval Air Force Atlantic’s in-house experts.
Combat systems qualification is a multistep process that starts with maintenance and moves on to running computerized simulations to tracking real targets — generally, Lear jets — to eventually live fire on drones and other targets, Williamson said.
The systems are guns and missiles tightly integrated with radar, other sensors and telecommunications systems.
The maintenance review meant taking apart and reassembling all the equipment in his NATO Sea Sparrow missile work center, said Petty Officer 2nd Class
Then, the job is making sure the system works.
“There must be like 100,000 lines of code to check,” Lantinga said.
In a way, that’s the point of the test and trial period — it’s not just about the gear on the ship, but about the sailors who really make the ship run, said Lanzilotta, the Ford’s CO.
“With C-Squat [combat systems qualification], sailors will be sitting down with an expert to their right and an expert to the left, really getting into it,” he said.
The current qualification effort focuses on what the
Its next work time at sea will be with the other ships in the group, making sure its combat systems and their anti-missile, anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and anti-ship defenses coordinate well — the aim is that Williamson won’t have to call on that last line of defense of CIWS Mount 23.
The next at-sea period will continue the combat systems qualification with live firing of missiles.
The test and trial period is slated to end this spring. Then, sailors will finish stringing the sensors that will track how the ship responds to the shock trials — basically big explosions close to the ship — that will be last major step before a trip back to Newport News Shipbuilding for a final check-up.