NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The USS Gerald R Ford is back on the water this month as a part of the Make Ford Ready initiative launched by the U.S. Navy.
WOOD TV8’s Norfolk, Virginia, sister station WAVY went aboard the ship to see what the testing looks like.
Commanding officer Capt. J.J. Cummings runs a tight ship, especially as the testing is underway.
“We have this motto on our ship that we’ve been living to since the day I got here. It’s ‘We must prepare to deploy with our carrier strike group, prepare to savage the enemy. We will be well-trained and ready to fight. We are warship 78,'” he said.
The aircraft landings aboard the ship are testing the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and advanced arresting gear (AAG), two systems unique to the carrier.
“Getting Ford ready, test and trial,” Cummings explained. “We have a lot of stuff since we haven’t had the time to exercise to its full extent, so we’re working every day to figure that out. (We) get to see how systems operate, how to develop operating procedures, tactical procedures. Get our manning right, get stuff rolling. When we see our deployment, we know what parts we need, people we need, how we’re going to execute and get weapons and fuel to our aircraft, so we’re working there.”
Several types of aircraft will be used during the testing, including T-45 Goshawks, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, and E/A-18G Growlers from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23); and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and C-2A Greyhounds, from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20).
In the last few days, the aircraft saw its first-ever landing of an E-2D Hawkeye, a C-2A Greyhound, a T-45 Goshawk, and the E/A 18G Growler.
Mehdi Akacem, who directs flight operations, said everything has been running smoothly and they are on the right track.
“We’re still at the base of the learning curve. There is lots of demonstration of reliability and repeatability that has to happen, and the Navy has got to plan over many thousands of cycles of launches and recoveries to ensure that they continue to become more reliable,” Akacem said.
Cummings said that is for one reason.
“Safety. 100% safety to make sure that an aircraft is fully loaded, fully gassed and can launch and recover in a variety of environments,” he said.
Cummings said these historic landings and successful training exercises make it easy for him to feel pride.
“A lot of work has come to get us here today. I just think that from decades of work, decades of work on the resting gear, decades of work to put our heads together for a new design — and then 15 months of work in the post-shakedown ability to … tighten up some of the systems that need a little bit of smoothing out … to see it all come together to do what the ship was designed to do, launch aircraft, (there’s) extreme pride for our crew and for the aviators… We are pumped to keep pushing,” he said.
The training will continue until the end of the month and will serve as a testing environment for future air operations aboard the USS Gerald R Ford.