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Only 3 of the 11 advanced weapons elevators on the $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford are ready, and the carrier is going to deploy years behind schedule

USS Gerald R. Ford



  • The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule, and potentially months away from fixing a problem that was supposed to be solved by the conclusion of its post-shakedown availability at the end of October.

  • Only 3 of the 11 advanced weapons elevators have been certified, James Guerts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, revealed Tuesday after a congressional hearing on ship maintenance and readiness.

  • And, while the carrier was expected to deploy in 2018 initially, the ship may not deploy with full operational capability until 2024, although Vice Admiral Tom Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, says he believes the Navy can get it done sooner.

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The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is way behind schedule, over budget, and still a ways from fixing the weapons elevators that were expected to be finished by the time the first-in-class ship leaves Norfolk Naval Shipyard at the end of its post-shakedown availability (PSA) later this month.


The Advanced Weapons Elevators required to move weapons to the flight deck quickly to facilitate higher sortie rates for increased lethality have been problems for years.


The secretary of the Navy said last year the elevators would be ready to go by the time the ship pulled out of the shipyard at the conclusion of its PSA, a maintenance period initially expected to end in July but delayed until the end of October. That is not going to happen.


Read more: Trump's Navy secretary bet his job on getting a critical supercarrier weapon system to work. The Navy says it won't be ready in time


"We certified and turned over to the crew three elevators. A fourth one is very close," James Guerts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, told Business Insider on Tuesday after a congressional hearing on ship and maintenance matters, adding that the Navy has managed to get seven of the eleven elevators moving.


The operational elevators go to the hangar bay, but the Navy is still struggling to ready the lower elevators that provide access to the ammunition and magazines on the lower levels.


As to what the problem is, Guerts stressed that this is not a technology issue, but rather a construction issue.


The Navy will continue to work on the elevators over the next 18 months. The challenge, however, will be feathering in the necessary work as the ship is at sea.


Even as the service works to sort out the remaining problems on its carrier — now billions of dollars over budget with a total cost of roughly $13 billion — Navy leadership admitted before the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that the ship will deploy years behind schedule, although it remains hopeful it will be able to field this new platform sooner.


While it was thought that the Ford might have full operational capability and be ready to deploy in 2021, only three years late, an exchange between  Vice Adm. Tom Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, and Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia, revealed that it may be much later.


"The original deployment was 2018, a year ago, and the best estimates we're looking at 2024, six years past that?" she asked.


"I think we'll beat that," Moore said, later telling Business Insider that the final deployment date for the Ford is something still being worked out with the chief of naval operations.


"We're trying to pull it as far back to the left as we can," Moore told Luria, who characterized the Ford as a "$13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge" during Tuesday's hearing.

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