Newport News shipbuilders and sailors have fixed problems with the propulsion plant on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, bringing the ship a step closer to returning to sea.
Work was completed July 22, ending more than a year of maintenance and repairs, according to a Navy news release.
Propulsion system problems first were spotted during sea trials in January 2018. A manufacturing defect was deemed to be the cause.
In May, the crew dealt with another propulsion plant issue “associated with a design modification” and the ship returned to Naval Station Norfolk, the news release stated.
The ship returned to sea later in May. After successfully completing all required at-sea tests, the Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding determined how to correct the manufacturing defects during post-shakedown work at the shipyard.
The Ford entered the yard last year and remains there now.
The propulsion problems weren’t with the nuclear reactors, but with other mechanical components. It took 400,000 employee hours of maintenance and production to complete the work, the Navy said.
Crew members who work in the Ford’s reactor department are already shifting their focus to preventive maintenance, said Lt. Cmdr. Deron Spencer, the ship’s reactor maintenance officer.
The first-in-class ship is packed with new technology, which has caused delays and cost overruns throughout its development and construction. Ford joined the fleet in 2017, but more work remains before it is ready for combat.
Navy leaders say they’re making progress with two key systems: the catapults and arresting gear that allow aircraft to launch and land on the flight deck.
Work continues on the advanced weapons elevators, which transport ordnance up from the lower decks. The Navy has brought in a team of outside experts to get all 11 elevators working to its satisfaction.
However, the Ford will likely leave the yard later this year without achieving that goal.
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