That the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier is having problems with its weapons elevators is hardly news. The new elevators, capable of moving more ordnance faster than the older models fitted to the Nimitz-class carriers, have been troublesome for some time now. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer staked his job on the Navy’s ability to get the ship ready and into service, telling the President that the ship would be ready by summer or to “fire me”. Now industry experts in the field of electromagnetics have been hired to help Huntington Ingalls fix the irksome components.
“We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators. We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible.” the assistant secretary of the Navy for acquisition, James Geurts, said in a released statement.
The team is also likely to recommend changes for the in-progress USS John F. Kennedy, USS Enterprise, and the as of yet unnamed CVN-81. Ideally for the Navy, the myriad of problems being ironed out on the USS Gerald R. Ford will not be present on the class’ later ships. Geurt’s statement also mentioned that “the team will also recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class.”
It should be mentioned that the elevators on the Ford, troublesome as they have been, are brand-new technology that should improve sortie generation rates over the Nimitz-class ships. The most challenging issues are reportedly among the elevators moving ordnance from the magazines deep in the ship to the hangar deck. These elevators must pass through many decks while retaining watertight integrity.
By way of contrast, the elevators moving from the hangar deck level to the flight deck are working smoothly. Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford’s Ordnance Handling Officer, said in a statement, “The two upper stage elevators have absolutely operated as designed, we operate the elevators 10 times a day, five days a week”. While these elevators are not without fault entirely, the Ford’s crew has apparently become adept at locating and fixing the issues as they arise.
The Ford is scheduled to leave drydock in October, and it does not yet seem likely that all the ship’s weapons elevators will be functional at that time.