The U.S. Navy announced the successful completion of the Post-Shakedown Availability/Selected Restricted Availability (PSA/SRA) for its aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Oct. 30 as the ship returned to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
PSA completion marks a significant shipbuilding milestone for USS Gerald R. Ford, the first ship in a next-generation class that will serve for 50 years as the centerpiece of national defense in an increasingly complex security environment.
“This is a warship like none other, and the process of returning her to fleet service reflects the great technical skill, professionalism and tenacity of the government/industry team,” said Rear Adm. James Downey, program executive officer for Aircraft Carriers. “USS Gerald R. Ford is the most technologically advanced, most lethal combat platform in the world. Everyone, from the highest levels of government to the crew working the deck plates, is laser focused on this aircraft carrier being ready to enter fleet service.”
A PSA is a typical period of construction availability in the early life of a ship during which the Navy and shipbuilder resolve issues that arise during initial at-sea periods and make any needed changes and upgrades. The CVN 78 PSA began on July 15, 2018, and included work on Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs), repairs to the ship’s main reduction gear, improvements to the throttle control system, upgrades to the Advanced Arresting Gear, and numerous other maintenance tasks.
During the PSA, most individual discrepancies, known as “trial cards,” that had been identified during previous work-ups were successfully addressed, with very few remaining to address in future maintenance availabilities. As a first-of-class ship, such discrepancies are not unexpected, and the Navy is incorporating lessons learned from CVN 78 to inform design and actively improve oversight of future ships of the class.
Program manager for USS Gerald R. Ford, Capt. Ron Rutan, acknowledged that unique challenges accompany technological advances.
“The design and execution challenge in delivering a first-of-class warfighting platform is not only to make CVN 78 better, but also to enhance production on the next ships in the class — the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and future USS Enterprise (CVN 80),” said Rutan. “The Gerald R. Ford class will set the competitive standard for afloat performance and power projection well into the second half of the 21st century.”
In an emerging era of Great Power Competition, USS Gerald R. Ford will serve as the most agile and lethal combat platform in the world. The Gerald R. Ford class incorporates 23 new technologies, comprising dramatic advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling and aircraft launch systems. These innovations will support a 30 percent higher sortie generation rate, executed with a 20 percent reduction in crew, at a significant cost savings, when compared to Nimitz-class ships. The Gerald R. Ford-class carrier offers a 17 percent reduction — approximately $4 billion per ship — in life cycle operations and support costs compared to the earlier Nimitz class.
Rutan praised the perseverance of thousands of designers, planners and technicians from PEO Aircraft Carriers, Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, Naval Air Force Atlantic and the shipbuilder in methodically navigating through technical setbacks.
“As the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years, this ship is a test bed for the warfighting technology essential for air dominance in the 21st century,” Rutan said. “It takes some patience on the front end to give the Navy a ship with the flexibility and resilience it will need during the next 50 years to rapidly adapt to emerging threats across maritime domains in support of overall Navy shipbuilding priorities.”