US Navy USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Successfully Completes Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials
US Navy USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Successfully Completes Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials

US Navy USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Successfully Completes Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully completed Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials (CSSQT) April 17, representing a major milestone in validating the ship’s capability to defend itself and the crew. The trials, which commenced in February, consisted of five phases. The completion of the final phase, 2C, and CSSQT overall, is the culmination of years of planning, training, ingenuity and thousands of working hours for the ship’s current and previous crews. In 2C, Ford faced off against rocket propelled drones capable of speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour; towed drone units (TDU) that simulate rockets; and remote controlled, high-speed maneuvering surface targets (HSMST).

Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department, operate an electrically enclosed forklift during an ammunition onload on the flight deck, April 9, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jackson Adkins)

The crew countered, relying on their skills and training to operate Ford’s advanced defense systems. They used the rolling airframe missile (RAM) launchers, firing off RIM-116 missiles; the NATO launchers to fire the evolved sea sparrow missiles (ESSM); and the Mk-15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) to fire armor-piercing tungsten bullets. As the first crew to fire Ford’s missiles and complete this mission, it is a huge accomplishment, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Todd Williamson, Ford’s fire control officer, and it began with the on-load of the missiles. The ship’s defense missiles engaged the drones, and CIWS took out the TDUs and HSMSTs.

A close-in weapons system aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is tested on Ford’s fantail as part of combat systems ship qualification trials (CSSQT), April 15, 2021.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Stamer)

All three TDUs were destroyed, two of those TDUs were ripped to shreds and all three HSMSTs were destroyed as well. The first few days of the nearly week-long exercises for 2C were some of the most challenging. For Weapons Department and Combat Systems Department, it was two 18-hour back-to-back days just to get set-up and complete telemetry checks. The telemetry checks provide the capability to record the flight performance characteristics and fusing of RAM and ESSM missiles to ensure they are capable of hitting their intended targets. There were other system checks, system and equipment tuning, ordnance uploads, preventative maintenance checks and casualty repairs, which collectively made for an extremely complex series of exercises.

A rolling airframe missile (RAM) launcher fires a RIM-116 missile from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during combat systems ship qualification trials (CSSQT), April 16, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Stamer)

CSSQT is the culminating combat systems test of Ford’s 18-month post-delivery test and trials (PDT&T) phase of operations. Following PDT&T this month, Ford will commence preparations for Full Ship Shock Trials, scheduled to occur during the summer, to validate the ability of new construction ships to carry out assigned missions and evaluate operational survivability after exposure to an underwater shock. USS Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier, and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. The ship is underway for Independent Steaming Event 18 (ISE 18), as part of her PDT&T phase of operations.

Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) combat systems department load an ESSM during an ammunition onload, April 9, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jackson Adkins)