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Carrier Ford to start training with lower weapons elevators as workers prep next AWE for tests

With this week’s certification of the Lower Stage 5 elevators of the Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE) system on aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the ship’s crew will now be able to operate the AWE at sea during its next under way period in May, train additional crewmembers, and validate training and maintenance procedures, US Navy (USN) officials said on 22 April.

Operations of the Lower Stage 5 will enhance combat system and flight-deck training during the ship’s Post Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) in coming months, the USN officials said.

At the same time, the USN is preparing the next AWE, Lower Stage Weapons Elevator 1, which facilitates moving ordnance from the forward magazine to the flight deck, for operations and testing that will lead to elevators being certified, Rear Admiral James Downey, programme executive officer for Aircraft Carriers, told reporters on 22 May during an AWE update.

After elevator construction, the AWEs need to be “groomed” for testing, Rear Adm Downey explained. At this stage, he said, “You fully exercise the elevator and make sure each component of the elevator meets all specifications and requirements.”

Grooming the Lower Stage 1 AWE, he said, will take one to two months. The follow-on testing period will take another month or two, depending on what further work needs to be done to certify and turn over the AWE to the crew.

“We’re well on track to finish this fiscal year,” he said, adding the turnover could come a month or two earlier than that scheduled deadline.

However, he pointed out, each of the elevators is unique and could present its own set of challenges.

The USN expects all Advanced Weapons Elevators aboard aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) to be certified by the third quarter of the coming fiscal year. (Michael Fabey)

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