The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT) on Jan. 31.
ACT began on Jan. 16 and during the 16 days of trials at sea, the crew launched and recovered 211 aircraft, testing five different airframes, using first-generation, state-of-the-art flight deck systems.
The testing phase included the first-ever underway catapult launches and arrested landings for the T-45 Goshawk and E/A-18G Growler from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23); as well as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound, from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20). Crews also tested F/A-18F Super Hornets from VX-23, which earlier had conducted initial compatibility tests onboard Ford in 2017.
This second and final round of testing validated the ship’s capability to launch and to recover aircraft with ordnance loadout and fuel states mirroring deployed requirements and operating tempos, using the two Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) systems unique to Ford, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).
By completing T-45 testing, the Ford will be able to provide carrier qualification support to the Training Command and to student naval aviators in the jet/E-2/C-2 pipeline.
The Gerald R. Ford now has 958 total traps to date and will likely surpass 1,000 launches and arrestments during the upcoming Flight Deck Certification (FDC) phase, currently scheduled for March, when her crew and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) Eight will take over all aspects of flight operations.
The Aircraft Compatibility Testing also allowed the crew and embarked test personnel to qualitatively evaluate the effect of the Ford-class air wake, or burble, and its compatibility with all types of fleet aircraft the Navy uses on an aircraft carrier. Aircraft were launched and recovered in different environmental conditions and sea states, and with varying aircraft weights—from heavy aircraft in light wind conditions to light aircraft in heavy wind conditions.