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Navy League 2021: US Navy awaits testing of final four carrier Ford weapons elevators

The final four Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs) on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) are going through – or being prepared for – testing and certification, according to Kevin Cormier, US Navy (USN) Ford-class deputy programme manager.

The AWEs, which have been a bone of contention between the USN and Congress since Ford was delivered, carry weapons from magazines deep within the ship to the flight deck to be put on aircraft.

The ship was forced to go to sea and conduct operations without all those elevators working – the new electromagnetic systems failed to open and close as they moved through decks to USN carrier watertight standards. The navy and contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding have been working on the ship while it was at sea or pier side to get all the 11 AWEs working properly.

To date, seven elevators have been certified and turned over to the navy.

Of the final four, two elevators are in final test-and-certification phase, Cormier said during a 3 August briefing at the Navy League 2021 Sea-Air-Space exposition in Maryland.

“All of the elevators have been operated, but the final four have not been tested and turned over,” Newport News Shipbuilding president Jennifer Boykin said during another 2 August briefing at the exposition.

She added that “it was a little bit unclear” how many days would be available to complete work on the remaining elevators.

The remaining two elevators are in pretest grooming phase, Cormier said. Overall, the AWEs are 97% complete, with over 15,000 elevator cycles performed by the crew in port and at sea, including operations in high-sea states, he noted.

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