US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni
- The US Navy is struggling to get the advanced weapons elevators on its new Ford-class aircraft carriers to work, so it is calling in outside experts to help amid delivery delays and rising costs, Breaking Defense reported Monday.
- The electromagnetic weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers, which can move twice as many munitions as the elevators on the Nimitz-class carriers at a faster rate, are essential to boosting the aircraft sortie rate to increase the overall lethality of the new flattops.
- The secretary of the Navy bet his job on the elevators being ready to go by the end of a maintenance period that was expected to end in July but has since been delayed to October. Even then, the Navy has doubts about its ability to get the elevators operational on time.
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The Navy is struggling to fix its new Ford-class supercarriers, so the service has called in outside experts to help find a solution amid delivery delays and rising costs.
The advanced weapons elevators, critical systems that the secretary of the Navy bet his job on, are one of the biggest problems. Only two of the 11 electromagnetic lifts on the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operational.
The advanced weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers are designed to move 20,000 pounds of munitions up to the flight deck at a rate of 150 feet per minute, a significant improvement over elevators on the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers able to lift only 10,500 pounds at 100 feet per minute. These lifts are crucial to increasing the aircraft sortie rate, thus increasingly the lethality of the new carriers over their predecessors.
But that requires they work, and right now, they don’t.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told President Donald Trump in December that "the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me." He told reporters earlier this year that "we’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done. I haven’t been fired yet by anyone. Being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list."
The secretary assured the president that problems with the elevators would be resolved by the end of the post-shakedown availability (PSA), a maintenance period following initial sea trials. The PSA was expected to wrap up in July, but it has since been delayed to October.
Trump has fixated on the Ford-class’s electromagnetic catapults that launch planes into the air, and said the future carriers would return to steam-powered catapults.
Even with the delays, the Navy doubted it could solve the elevator problem by the end of the PSA. "The elevators are going to require more work after the PSA," a Navy official previously told Business Insider. "The elevators are the long pole in the tent," he said, clarifying that integration remains the greatest challenge.
So, the Navy has decided to bring in outside help, Breaking Defense reported Monday.
"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," Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts told the defense media outlet in a statement. "We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators."
The team of experts called into work with Huntington Ingalls at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia has experience with electromagnetic systems, electrical engineering, and systems integration. This group will "recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class," Guerts said.
While the Navy has yet to get the Ford working as intended, the service has already committed billions of dollars to the development of three additional Ford-class carriers.
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