The very latest United States Navy aircraft carrier is about to start a two-plus year sea trials programmes, ahead of joining the naval power later this decade.
Equipped with state-of-the-art radar systems and the capability to launch both manned and unmanned aircraft types, the USS Gerald R. Ford spearheads a new class of aircraft carriers.
The Ford-class ships are the first all-new US Navy carriers in almost 50 years. The USS Gerald R. Ford itself was ceremoniously named last November and, all being well, it will be pressed into service in 2016. Prior to that, it faces 26 months at sea while all its systems are put through their paces. "We're kind of in the infancy stage of the test program, and the early returns are good", USN Rear Admiral Thomas Moore explained to the Daily Press, adding: "[but] we have a long way to go."
Ford Carrier Test Programme
The 26-month Ford carrier test programme is that long on account of the complex systems installed - more so than in any preceding US Navy carrier. They include enhanced propulsion and electromagnetic rails - a more efficient means of launching aircraft off the flight deck.
The USS Ford's weight is approaching 100,000 tonnes. Once in service, it will accommodate some 4,600 USN personnel and a maximum of 75 aircraft. It and the other Ford-class carriers will take over from the Nimitz-class carriers, whose days are now becoming numbered.
USS Gerald R. Ford
Compared to its direct predecessors, the USS Gerald R. Ford has more flight deck space, three elevators for aircraft and electrical power systems in place of the steam-powered systems currently in use
"On previous Nimitz-class carriers, you always had a cadre of sailors who had been on previous construction projects, and the systems were very, very familiar for them", added Rear Admiral Moore. "On the Ford, that's not the case, It's a new ship with a lot of new developmental systems."