Supplying the Future of Naval Aviation

March 11, 2021 | By Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Buchanan

By Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Buchanan, Assistant Supply Officer, USS Gerald R. Ford

The Chief of Naval Operations’ Fragmentary Order 01/2019: A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, emphasizes the Navy’s commitment to modernizing the force to ensure the Navy is ready to fight now and also to be prepared for tomorrow.

Concepts like distributed maritime operations focus on dispersing warships over vast areas and engaging in a major fight at the fleet level, which fundamentally centers on the carrier strike group. Some of USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) new, yet less-known technology, will help push the envelope of the sustainment-at-sea capability that is critical to strike group
operations.

As the Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, Ford boasts cutting-edge, technological advancements. Ford incorporates 23 new technologies beyond those found in Nimitzclass ships that will make future carrier operations more proficient and more effective, while also being adaptable enough to support future weapon systems. Some of the well-known advancements include the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Advanced Arresting Gear, and Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs).

As of the writing of this article, Ford has completed four independent steaming events (ISEs), conducting multiple at-sea tests and milestones. Many of these milestones have been highly publicized. In January, Ford completed aircraft compatibility testing, a prerequisite to flight deck certification (FDC) and fully independent flight operations. In March, Ford
completed FDC, combat systems AIMC certification, its first-ever vertical replenishment at-sea, and commenced serving as the only carrier qualification asset regularly available on the east coast this year.

At the completion of ISE 10 in June, Ford had conducted 3,480 catapult launches and arrested landings, logged more than 10 thousand AWE cycles, and conducted the largest Carrier Air Wing (CVW)-8 embark and first Carrier Strike Group (CSG)-12 Commander embark. In addition, during this execution of cyclic flight operations with CVW-8, Ford moved thousands of pounds of inert ordnance via AWEs to F/A-18 Super Hornets, employed
during close air support and air-to-ground training missions.

Yet, while these systems and events have made headlines, many lesser known technologies essential to the ship’s sustained operations have been critical to the ship’s success during multiple ISEs, such as a reverse osmosis system that generates 100 thousand gallons of water more per day than a Nimitz-class carrier, conglomerate galleys that streamline food service requirements, full pallet capable stores elevators utilizing vertical storeroom integration, and Ford’s Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System (PAWDS).

In the following articles, you will clearly see why carrier operations are changing for the better and how increasing logistical efficiencies produce greater combat lethality. Vertically integrated full pallet capable stores elevators improve cargo handling across the board for services and logistics; Ford’s two conglomerate galleys tout a fresh design and come equipped with state-of-the-art galley equipment; integrated heads in all berthing spaces increases quality of life living aboard, and PAWDS stands as champion over other waste disposal systems.

Integrating new technology and bringing logistics support online is complicated and challenging endeavor involving multiple major commands. As Ford sails through its Post Delivery Test and Trials milestone packed timeline—comprising cyclic flight operations with its embarked air wing, full ship functionality, and achieving the highest standards of visual and material readiness— the crew will rely on these lesser-known technologies to improve operational readiness.

The Navy assigned all hands on deck to make Ford ready as a warship because the future of naval aviation for the next 100 years is evolving. The transformational technology installed and operated on warship 78 will support a Navy that is capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas for decades to come.