US Navy USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE)
US Navy USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE)

Advanced Weapons Elevators Completed Aboard US Navy USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

On December 22, the 11th and final Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE) aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was turned over to the Ship’s Crew. AWEs on this first-of-class aircraft carrier operate using several advanced technologies including electromagnetic motors vice more labor intensive, hydraulic systems. The advanced technology enables fewer sailors to safely move ordnance from weapons magazines to the flight deck with unparalleled speed and agility. This is a significant milestone for the U.S. Navy, ship, and her crew. With completion of this final AWE, we now have the entire system to operate and train with.

Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) weapons department, receive MK-82 500-pound class inert bombs on one of Ford's Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWE).
Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department, receive MK-82 500-pound class inert bombs on one of Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWE). (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach/U.S. Navy)

The AWE Lead Unit still operates in FEC’s Elevator Test Facility, a 40 foot structure that houses the full scale AWE system capable of 32 feet of vertical travel. The AWE was developed collaboratively working with MagneMotion and key stakeholders from Newport News Shipbuilding and NAVSEA. Originating as a concept during the early phases of new aircraft carrier design studies intending to replace the Nimitz class carriers, the FEC Team was eventually down-selected to design and manufacture the AWE hoisting components for the CVN 78 Ford Class. The AWE Lead Unit still operates in FEC’s Elevator Test Facility, a 40 foot structure that houses the full scale AWE system capable of 32 feet of vertical travel.

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Adm. Tony Radakin, right, U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, center right, receives a brief from Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) commanding officer, in one of Ford's advanced weapons elevators.
Adm. Tony Radakin, right, U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, center right, receives a brief from Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) commanding officer, in one of Ford’s advanced weapons elevators. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Melvin/U.S. Navy)

The Federal Equipment Company’s AWE consists of a ropeless elevator system utilizing linear synchronous motors (LSM), advanced control systems, wireless technology, as well as many other innovative subsystems. The AWE Lead Unit endured extreme qualification trials including shock, vibration, and EMI tests along with extensive load and reliability testing (e.g., static, dynamic, etc.). Ultimately, the AWE system successfully achieved the 24,000 pound rated load capacity and 150 feet per minute speed requirement exceeding the legacy system capacity and speed by over 200% and 150%, respectively.

Aviation Ordnanceman assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department, moves ammunition onto one of the ship's advanced weapons elevators during an ammunition onload on the flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Angel Thuy Jaskuloski)
Aviation Ordnanceman assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department, moves ammunition onto one of the ship’s advanced weapons elevators during an ammunition onload on the flight deck. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Angel Thuy Jaskuloski/U.S. Navy)

The Navy-Industry AWE team worked tirelessly both inport and at sea to complete the elevators to ensure the availability of needed materials and engineering expertise. Multiple vendors have collaborated along the way to ensure seamless support to multi-shift, shipboard production efforts. The team logged this important milestone in the midst of the ship’s six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA), at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Gerald R. Ford is scheduled to complete the PIA this spring, followed by training and deployment.

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