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Navy League 2023: US Navy sets next Ford deployment and cites Kennedy weapons elevator work

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford is scheduled to deploy in May 2023. (Michael Fabey)

The US Navy (USN) plans to next deploy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) in May as the service continues to work out issues with the Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs) on the second Ford-class ship, USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79), according to Captain Brian Metcalf, Ford-class carrier programme manager.

Speaking about Ford on 4 April during a briefing at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2023 Global Maritime Exposition in National Harbor, Maryland, which started on 3 April, Capt Metcalf said, “She earned all of her certifications and met all the requirements to deploy. She's designated to deploy the first week of May. We expect that to be at least a six-month deployment.”

Speaking about Kennedy during the same briefing, Capt Metcalf said, “The elevators on 79 are doing much better than on 78 at this point in construction.”

The AWEs on Ford proved difficult to install properly, leading to programme delays and problems not only for the programme but also for the top of navy leadership, which had to address the issues before Congress.

Newport News Shipbuilding put contractor teams on Ford to address the issues, sometimes shifting people and resources from CVN 79 to make the system fully operational.

While Ford officers and sailors say the AWEs are operating now as they are designed to do, some issues apparently remain aboard Kennedy , which is under construction at the shipyard in Virginia.

“It would not be honest for me to tell you it's been 100% fixed,” Capt Metcalf said.

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