US Navy certifies USS Gerald R. Ford’s sixth advanced weapons elevator

Program Executive Office (PEO) Aircraft Carriers announced the on-schedule certification and turnover of a sixth Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE) aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), July 22.
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US Navy certifies USS Gerald R. Fords Sixth Advanced Weapons Elevator 925 001 Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailors man the rails as the ship departs Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding for builder’s sea trials off the coast. (Picture source: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

Designed to move ordnance efficiently from the ship’s forward magazine to the flight deck, via the forward weapons handling and transfer area, Lower Stage Weapons Elevator (LSWE) 1 augments the exceptional lift capability of LSWE 5, enhancing the speed and effectiveness of combat system and flight deck training operations at the midpoint of the ship’s Post Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) phase of operations.

The crew will operate the elevator during the next underway period to exercise the system in an at-sea environment, train crewmembers, and validate operational and maintenance procedures.

Since November 2019, Gerald R. Ford has been conducting a series of independent steaming events (ISEs) interlaced with shore-based maintenance Windows of Opportunity (WOOs). The first-of-class aircraft carrier is now entering the second half of its 18-month PDT&T, with the pace of flight deck operations intensifying. To date, the ship has launched and recovered more than 3,450 aircraft.

In June, Gerald R. Ford embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, which conducted cyclic flight operations day and night, amassing 324 catapult launches and arrested landings and qualifying 50 pilots. During this evolution, crews moved thousands of pounds of inert ordnance via the ship’s advanced weapons elevators, loading them on F/A-18 Super Hornets that conducted Close Air Support and air-to-ground training missions—operational firsts for the Ford-class warship.

US Navy certifies USS Gerald R. Fords Sixth Advanced Weapons Elevator 925 002Lt. Cmdr. Paul Castillo, right, from San Diego USS Gerald R. Ford's Ordnance Handling Officer, takes possession of Lower Stage Weapons Elevator (LSWE) 1 for ford, July 22, 2020. (Picture source: U.S. Navy photo by MC2 William Spears)

Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 also embarked Gerald R. Ford during this underway, marking the first time a Strike Group Commander and staff embarked for operations.

Gerald R. Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators have logged more than 10,300 cycles. As the number of AWEs turned over to Ship’s Force increases, the crew will rehearse the complex weapons loading processes in real-time with qualifying aircraft, proving the flexibility and versatility of the aircraft carrier’s advanced technology.

The remaining five elevators are on track to be certified by the time Gerald R. Ford Ford undergoes Full Ship Shock Trials, scheduled for the third quarter of FY21.

Downey noted that Gerald R. Ford has maintained an intense operational tempo during the testing and trials period and succeeded in certifying LSWE 1 on schedule, in spite of challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.