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‘Poor and Unknown Reliability’: $13B USS Ford Struggled In Sea Trials - Report

© Photo : Wikipedia/U.S. Navy USS Gerald R. Ford
USS Gerald R. Ford - Sputnik International
An internal Pentagon report questioned the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford’s ability to quickly generate aircraft sorties, as data has surfaced suggesting there are reliability questions about some of the ship’s key naval aviation systems.

The USS Ford has already exceeded its budget by approximately 20 percent, to approximately $13 billion. The ship was intended to be ready to go in 2015, but delays have marred what seems like every step of development.

The USS Ford "will probably not achieve" the required sortie generation rate (SGR) of 160 sorties per day (12-hour fly day) with a surge capacity of 270 sorties per day (24-hour fly day), said Robert Behler, Defense Department director of operational testing, in a review of the aircraft carrier obtained by Bloomberg News.

The sortie generation rate is one of the main metrics used to measure any aircraft carrier. Nimitz-class ships have an SGR of 120, with a surge capacity of 240.

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The new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and the advanced arresting gear (AAG) for takeoffs and landings, respectively, are key components in the USS Ford's sortie generation rate.

In a memo written by Behler to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the director of operational testing stated that although "improvements have occurred, poor and unknown reliability continues to plague the ship and key systems," according to Bloomberg.

"Unrealistic assumptions" that "ignore the effects of weather, aircraft emergencies, ship maneuvers and current air-wing composition on flight operations" are why Behler said the Ford is unlikely to hit its SGR targets.

The director of operational testing at the time also warned in a 2013 assessment "it is unlikely" that the USS Ford "will achieve its SGR requirement" of 160 sorties per day with 270 sorties per day during surge periods. "The target threshold is based on unrealistic assumptions, including fair weather and unlimited visibility, and that aircraft emergencies, failures of shipboard equipment, ship maneuvers (i.e. to avoid land) and manning shortfalls will not affect flight operations," said J. Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing at the Pentagon from 2009 to 2016.

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During the time the USS Ford was out at sea trials since May 2017, General Atomics' crews recorded 20 failures of launch-and-landing systems out of 747 attempts, Bloomberg reported. A spokesman for the US Navy told the outlet that no injuries were sustained, and neither the ship nor any aircraft were damaged during the sea trials.

A spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command told Bloomberg that 747 catapults and landings was an "insufficient number of events from which to draw conclusions with respect to reliability."
US President Donald Trump has criticized EMALS, saying last fall, "Unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly."

EMALS only completed its first successful launch of an F/A-18 at sea in August of 2017, Sputnik News reported.

The issues with EMALS and the AAG are separate from other problems on the USS Ford. Only one of 11 planned weapons elevators has been installed on the aircraft carrier. US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said he told Trump at the Army-Navy football game last month, "The elevators will be ready when she pulls out [by the end of the summer] or you can fire me."

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