Report: Navy orders additional test on aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford
By HUGH LESSIG | Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 13, 2015
Newport News Shipbuilding is still expected to deliver the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford in the first half of 2016, but an additional test ordered by the Pentagon could delay the ship's first deployment.
Contrary to Navy wishes, the Pentagon has ordered at-sea shock trials for the first-in-class Ford. The story was first reported by Bloomberg News and Defense News. Shock tests employ live explosives, set off near the ship, to test its survivability.
The Navy wanted to delay shock trials until the second Ford-class ship, the future USS John F. Kennedy. That carrier is currently under construction at the Newport News shipyard.
Navy leaders have said that modeling and simulation would be enough to determine the Ford's strengths and weaknesses, but that has been controversial from the start. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a push to include funding for shock tests in the Senate version of the defense authorization bill.
Delaying shock tests until the second ship in the class, "is hard to justify for a new ship that is this complex," he said at a hearing earlier this year.
In portions of a memo cited by Defense News, the Pentagon's Frank Kendall admitted the tests could delay the Ford's initial combat deployment. Kendall is the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer.
Shock tests will not occur until after Newport News delivers the ship. It will not impact the Ford's anticipated commissioning in the spring of 2016, confirmed Cmdr. Thurraya S. Kent, a Navy spokeswoman.
Navy leaders have been moving full speed ahead to get the Ford into the fleet. Congress requires the United States to have 11 aircraft carriers, but the fleet has temporarily stood at 10 since the USS Enterprise left active service in late 2012.
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The final keel section of the future aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is lowered into place at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding May 24, 2012. The 680-metric-ton, 60-foot-tall lower bow unit was joined to the other keel sections and was the last major section of the ship installed below the waterline.
RICKY THOMPSON/U.S. NAVY