June 2, 2020 – The Commanding Officer of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), Capt. J.J. Cummings and Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, Capt. Josh Sager, announced the largest air wing embark to date, and Ford’s first ordnance movement from a lower deck magazine to F/A-18E Super Hornets using Ford’s state-of-the-art Advanced Weapons Elevators during a teleconference, June 1.
CVW-8 embarked seven squadrons and is operating nearly 30 fixed-wing aircraft and both of their Helicopter Sea Combat squadrons. Cummings said this embark serves as an opportunity to stress and test Ford’s unique design and demonstrate her ability to conduct integrated air wing operations.
“This is a historic underway – we embarked nearly 1,000 Sailors, the largest air wing embark to date, and we were able to commence cyclic operations and it’s proven successful,” said Cummings. “It’s exciting to have the air wing onboard and get into their spaces and berthings so they can help us tighten things up to where they want them to be.”
In a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach the air wing has ramped up to 3 day and 2 night integrated events with only a short break between day and night events. Sager said this is first time CVW-8 squadrons have been able to execute all of their missions aboard Ford.
“We’re thrilled to be here dropping light and heavy inert ordnance; but the biggest thing as the air wing commander is to do our primary mission: war at sea, air defense, air superiority and power projection,” said Sager. “We’re taking [Ford] from carrier qualification to a mission that focuses on combat operations and expanding that capability. It’s been an honor to take [Ford] to a ship that’s able to execute the Navy’s warfighting mission.”
The inert ordnance mission sets were possible due to Ford’s successful transfer of ordnance from a lower level magazine to the flight deck via the ship’s lower stage weapons elevator (LSWE). The air wing’s embark provided the first opportunity for Ford’s weapons department to execute a full ordnance movement using LSWE 5.
“We moved 40,000 pounds of inert, or not live, ordnance,” said Cummings. “We loaded it on our ship a week ago and moved them to our magazines. Our team then built up the bombs and used lower stage five to get them to the hangar bay. From there we transferred them to the weapons handling transfer area via an upper stage elevator where we issued the weapons to squadron ordnance personnel for eventual loading on aircraft, on the flight deck, for training missions. It was a monumental day, and everything worked as advertised.”
In preparation for this milestone, more than 250 Sailors assigned to Ford’s weapons department executed multiple training packages on buildup, transport, and break down of ordnance to build their proficiency. To date, the ship has conducted more than 9,751 cycles of the upper stage elevators and 109 cycles of LSWE 5.
As far as Ford and CVW-8 leadership are concerned, Ford – now seven months into her Post-Delivery Test and Trials phase of operations – is showcasing her ability to support integrated air wing strike missions with proficiency and is looking forward to their upcoming Carrier Strike Group integration.
“We’re happy to do our job and do what we’re paid to do, and that’s launch and recover aircraft day and night,” said Cummings. “Our Sailors are fired up to perform the job they have been trained to do which brings smiles to their faces. Morale on our ship is up pretty high right now because we’re doing our job every day, and we’re loving it.”