All of Aircraft Carrier Ford's Weapons Elevators Will Be Ready by End of Year Despite Long Delay, Navy Says

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USS Gerald R. Ford MK-82 500-pound class inert bombs
Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's weapons department receive MK-82 500-pound class inert bombs on one of Ford's Advanced Weapons Elevators, May 30, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)

After more than four years of delays, the Navy's newest -- and most expensive -- aircraft carrier finally is set to have all of its weapons elevators working by the end of this year.

The Gerald R. Ford's 11 elevators move missiles and bombs from its weapon magazines up to the flight deck, so that they can be loaded onto aircraft. The lifts must be working before the ship can head out on a deployment scheduled for next year.

The Ford's elevator systems use new technology -- high-powered magnets instead of cables -- to move ordnance. All 11 were supposed to be in working order when the ship was delivered to the Navy in May 2017, but none was operational. Since then, they have been coming slowly online. Last summer, the service said it had six elevators working.

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At that time, Navy officials said the elevators would be ready by the time the ship went to shock trials.

The service announced the ship completed the last of its three shock trials Aug. 8. Four of the elevators still were not installed.

A congressional report on the carrier program noted, "The Navy has struggled since November 2018 to meet promises it has repeatedly made to the defense oversight committees to get the elevators completed, tested, and certified."

Alan Baribeau, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Military.com on Tuesday that the ship has seven functioning elevators and the remaining four are set to be online by the end of the year.

Two of the four elevators "have completed construction, commenced testing, and are on track to certify and turnover this summer," he added.

The remaining two "are estimated to complete testing, certify, and turnover before the end of the calendar year."

The carrier now will head to a shipyard in Virginia for six months of modernization, maintenance and post-trial repairs. It is expected to come out of the yard in February 2022 and immediately begin workups for deployment that year, Baribeau said.

The report noted that prior delays in getting the elevators installed and working already have pushed back the Ford's first deployment.

Baribeau said that the functioning elevators have been working well "with more than 15,000 elevator cycles performed by the crew both in port and at sea, including operations in high sea states."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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