A student naval aviator logged a key milestone in Naval Aviation history April 8 when he landed a T-45C Goshawk aboard aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during carrier qualifications (CQ), marking the 2,000th trap for the ship. As the lead ship of her class, Ford marks the first new carrier design in more than 40 years. The ship is named after the 38th President of the United States Gerald R. Ford whose World War II naval service included combat duty aboard the light aircraft carrier Monterey (CVL 26) in the Pacific Theater. The first-in-class aircraft carrier employs state-of-the art Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) unique to Ford: the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).
Lt. j.g. Cade Warlick, assigned to the “Redhawks” of Training Squadron 21 under Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas, completed Ford’s 2,000th trap. He joined a group of 25 student naval aviators and 5 instructor pilots who carrier qualified during the training detachment conducted in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast April 4-11. Chief of Naval Air Training aviators conducted 411 traps during the detachment, pushing the cumulative total number of traps on Ford past the 2,000 mark – a significant milestone for the new flight deck technology and the ship. Chief of Naval Air Training, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.
The detachment comprised students and instructors from Training Air Wings 1 and 2, located at NAS Meridian, Mississippi, and NAS Kingsville, Texas, respectively. Together, the two wings conduct all undergraduate strike fighter training for the Navy, Marine Corps, and selected international military partners. Executing CQ on Ford, known as “Warship 78,” was a coordinated effort among the training air wings, the Ford crew, civilian aircraft maintainers, Chief of Naval Air Training headquarters staff, and aerial support from the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9 and the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40, both based in Norfolk. Aircraft operated out of Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
The ability to operate from and at sea is critical to providing a Naval Aviation force that is ready to take the fight to adversaries and win. CQ provides student naval aviators essential practical experience in daylight launch (catapult-assisted take off) and recovery (arrested landing known as a “trap”) on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier at sea. Before progressing to the aircraft carrier, students must complete field carrier landing practice (FCLP), which occurs on land. After completing the strike pipeline, students earn their Wings of Gold and proceed to postgraduate training at fleet replacement squadrons to master aircraft including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-35C Lightning II, E/A-18G Growler, E-2C Hawkeye, E2D Advanced Hawkeye, and C-2A Greyhound.
The mission and function of EMALS remains the same as the traditional steam catapult; however, it employs entirely different technologies. It delivers necessary higher-launch energy capacity, improvements in system maintenance, increased reliability and efficiency, and more accurate end-speed control and smooth acceleration. EMALS expands the operational capability of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class carriers to include all current and future planned carrier aircraft, from lightweight unmanned aircraft to heavy strike fighters.The software-controlled AAG is a modular, integrated system that consists of energy absorbers, power conditioning equipment and digital controls, with architecture that provides built-in test and diagnostics, resulting in lower maintenance and manpower requirements.