By Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Buchanan, Assistant Supply Officer, USS Gerald R. Ford
The full pallet capable stores elevators aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) are a unique feature that supports almost all of supply department’s storage compartments. These elevators were put to the test during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with USNS Patuxent (T AO 201) in May.
Ford’s first-in-class design uses 10 programmable logic-controlled, machinery driven elevators, uniquely situated over centralized
supply storage spaces through multiple levels, arrayed fore to aft. This vertical integration of centralized storerooms significantly increases storage capabilities and eliminates the need for large ship-force working parties.
Sailors who have served aboard other ships find it shocking that large 50- or 100-man working parties are not used during a logistical resupply. A receiving team can place full pallets on an elevator, send the load to the proper level, offload the pallet, and then store the entire pallet in the storage space. Cmdr. Carl Koch, Ford’s supply officer, explained how Ford’s stores elevators increase operational capabilities.
“Stores elevators are a significant advantage Ford-class carriers have over Nimitz-class carriers,” said Koch. “They offer a direct benefit to supply department Sailors in providing us the capability to strike full pallets of repair parts and subsistence to the storerooms without breaking them down. After using stores conveyors on Nimitz-class ships and the full pallet stores elevators on Ford, I couldn't imagine going back. This is a tremendous leap forward in our capability and flexibility as a supply department.”
To keep the fleet underway and supporting operations, Navy ships conduct a RAS to restock different classes of supplies. During a RAS, pallets of supplies are either passed on wires strung between both ships called connected replenishment or through vertical replenishment via a helicopter that slings a cargo net-wrapped pallet from underneath its frame ship to ship.
During Ford’s RAS with Patuxent, Ford received 425 thousand gallons of aircraft fuel (JP5) and 143 pallets of food. The entire evolution took several hours, but the stores onload of pallets was conducted in two hours with only 18 supply personnel on the flight deck. Once onloaded, all pallets were transported from the flight deck to their respective storage compartments, using only supply department manning. All 83 food service pallets were stowed within 75 minutes of receiving them.
In addition, operating multiple stores elevators to stow materials minimizes the time the hangar bay is closed to personnel due to replenishment.
“As our proficiency improves, we expect to be capable of striking down material at the rate of delivery, which means after a RAS we can return the hangar back to support air operations sooner,” said Koch.
Chief Culinary Specialist and Food Services Cargo’s Leading Chief Petty Officer Moses Brathwaite plans and supervises replenishment operations from the hangar bay and delivery to storage compartments.
"In my opinion, the stores elevators on Ford double or triple the efficiency of the Nimitz-class package conveyors,” said Brathwaite. “At full capacity, the ability to load up to 12 complete pallets of stores and lower them straight into centralized storerooms to be placed directly into long-term
storage is extremely convenient.”
The CNO’s maritime strategy calls for a future Navy with more agile and resilient logistics that provide the capability to employ forces in dispersed, forward environments across the spectrum of conflict. The Ford-class carrier is the future of naval logistics, providing minimal manning and vertical integration of stores elevators over centralized storerooms— a cost benefit that enables carrier operations to be more efficient, ultimately improving lethality by keeping carriers in the fight and on station longer.