USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed its 11th independent steaming event (ISE 11) Aug. 5, and is now more than halfway through her post-delivery test and trials (PDT&T) phase of operations.
During ISE 11, Ford completed many major PDT&T milestones designed to exercise installed systems and conduct crew training.
As the only aircraft carrier regularly available on the East Coast this year, Ford qualified 19 pilots assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 and 21 pilots assigned to the “Greyhawks” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 120, bringing Ford’s total catapult launches and arrested landings to 3,975.
Ford’s intelligence department successfully completed a test of the SLQ-32 electronic support system, to measure sensor accuracy, while operating adjacent to the Shipboard Electronic Systems Evaluation Facility range (SESEF). Additionally, Ship’s Signal Exploitation Space (SSES) successfully completed its initial testing during its Cryptologic Simulator Exercise on the SESEF Range. SSES accurately collected and analyzed 100 percent of signals transmitted by Information Warfare Training Group within the HF/VHF spectrum - a first for the Ford-class.
VAW-120 completed their first carrier qualifications with the aerial refueling variant of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. Lt. Brian Ferdon, an instructor assigned to VAW-120, explained some of the differences between a Tracer and an E-2C Hawkeye 2000.
“The E-2D has the same airframe as the E-2C, but represents a two-generation leap in radar detection technology,” said Ferdon. “With the upgraded communications suite, it means that we can move out of early airborne detection and into airborne command and control missions sets.”
The aerial refueling variant of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye allows for increased time on station to defend the carrier strike group (CSG) or for long missions in country.
In addition to scheduled PDT&T milestones, Ford also conducted many first-ever events and training evolutions during ISE 11.
Ford’s security department conducted their first 9mm service pistol and M4 service rifle live-fire exercise, qualifying more than 40 Sailors and expending 4,022 rounds of small arms ammunition.
“We had to qualify our naval security force on small arms,” said Master-At-Arms 1st Class Ben Kemmerzell, from Huntsville, Alabama, assigned to Ford’s security department. “We patrol the flight deck, act as a security reaction force and ensure the safety and security of the ship and her crew.”
Other first-ever events included aircraft intermediate maintenance department’s full run to afterburner of an F/A-18 jet engine using Jet Engine Test Instrumentation, combat systems department’s pre-action aim calibration fire on one of three close-in weapons system mounts, and operations department’s completion of an Air Intercept Control (AIC) event on July 30. AIC missions are an opportunity to demonstrate integration with CSG-12 as part of the air defense mission to defend Ford and the rest of the force.
Working behind the scenes of many Ford-firsts and PDT&T milestones, Ford’s engineering and weapons departments ensured the safety of the crew and embarked Sailors with advanced hands-on damage control training for more than 180 personnel over a 12 day period, and the qualification of 30 Sailors on the .50cal machine gun.
Gerald R. Ford returned to port for a scheduled window of opportunity for maintenance to complete construction and activation of select shipboard systems. Upon completion of the PDT&T phase of operations, Ford will undergo a Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST).