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DOT&E cites operational success but notes reliability issues on carrier Ford

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford has reported success with launching and recovery systems, but a Pentagon report says more testing is needed. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

US Navy (USN) aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) has proven the effectiveness of its flight operations and other vital systems during recent deployments and testing, but some of these systems still present reliability issues, according to the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) FY 2023 Annual Report released on 2 February.

“In May 2023 USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) deployed to meet operational needs, prior to completing IOT&E (Initial Operational Test and Evaluation),” the DOT&E said.

“In FY [20]23, prior to the ship's deployment, the navy continued IOT&E on CVN 78, completing two significant at-sea periods as part of the carrier strike group (CSG), with an operationally representative crew executing operationally representative flight operations and continuing land-based cyber survivability testing,” the DOT&E said.

“In FY [20]23, CVN 78 conducted almost as many flight operations as it had in the previous five years combined since commissioning,” the DOT&E said. “Reliability and maintainability challenges with systems critical to consistent and on-demand flight operations continue to pose the most risk to CVN 78 demonstrating operational effectiveness and suitability.”

During its eight-month deployment that included operations in the Mediterranean, Ford met operational expectations for a new carrier class meant to eclipse the Nimitz-class ships the new vessels are replacing, according to Captain Rick Burgess, commanding officer of Ford.

Acknowledging Ford had “traditional issues” facing all ships that are under way during a 17 January 2024 briefing pier side in Norfolk, Virginia, moments after the ship returned to its home port, Capt Burgess said both the ship and its systems worked “fantastically”.

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