January 21, 2019

EXCELLENT: The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier got a long-missing piece of gear in December, helping solve a problem the Navy secretary has bet his job on fixing.

On December 21, the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which has been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said this week.

That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has staked his job on the elevators— which were not installed when the carrier was delivered 32 months late in May 2017 — being ready by the end of the carrier’s year-long post-shakedown assessment this summer.

Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Hunting Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through a post-shakedown period after testing at sea.

The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.

We’ve been building aircraft carriers with weapons elevators for nearly a century, so this might seem like an inexcusable delay. But part of the Ford-class’s selling point is its ability — well, hoped-for ability — to generate more aircraft sorties each day. And doing that requires an all-new launch system (the problem-plagued EMALS) and all-new/high-speed weapons elevators. There were bound to be teething issues, but it looks like they’re getting sorted out.