SECNAV Marks Aircraft Carrier Centennial on USS Gerald R Ford

Throughout the 2022 calendar year, the U.S. Navy is commemorating 100 years of aircraft carriers, celebrating the strategic importance of aircraft carriers and the future of naval aviation while honoring their history.

As part of this important milestone, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, visited the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), March 10, 2022.

Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer, led Del Toro on a tour of the ship, discussing and showcasing several unique systems and equipment, including the state-of-the-art Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System.

“It was a real honor to host Secretary Del Toro and have the opportunity to show him first-hand the capabilities and advantages of our first-in-class warship,” said Lanzilotta. “This crew put in a lot of hard work to ensure we came out of the shipyard on time and operationally ready which shows real ownership, and I believe we were able to demonstrate that to SECNAV today.”

Ford’s Ordnance Handling Officer Lt. Cmdr. Paul Castillo and several aviation ordnancemen provided Del Toro an Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE) demonstration, bringing training ordnance from the magazines, through the hangar bay and up to the Ford’s unique weapons handling transfer area.

“It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to demonstrate the AWE and ordnance movement for the Secretary of the Navy,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Karen Smith, from Austin, Texas. “A lot of hard work goes into what the weapons department does as a whole, and we were able to show that we always do what it takes to complete the mission.”

Ford’s AWEs are smart elevators that add redundancy and survivability to the ship using touchless charging and Wi-Fi cables instead of hydraulics.

“The capability of this aircraft carrier is like nothing we’ve ever seen in our United States Navy,” said Del Toro. “The technology and capability of this ship and future Ford-class carriers are unmatched. I am undeniably impressed by this crew’s professionalism, perseverance, and dedication in getting this ship ready to crew.”

Del Toro also had the opportunity to eat lunch with Ford’s newest Sailors of the Quarter.

“It is clear that the Secretary of the Navy looks out for the well-being of Sailors,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Nicholas Allen, from Columbia, Connecticut, assigned to Ford’s medical department and Ford’s Sailor of the Quarter. “He remembers his experience as a commanding officer and Sailor himself, and it shows in his leadership style. He talked about PPV (public private venture) housing initiatives and the families of Sailors and their importance. It shows that he really does care about those in the fleet.”

Following lunch, Del Toro and the Sailors of the Quarter cut a cake in honor of the centennial anniversary of United States Navy aircraft carriers.

Del Toro also conducted an all-hands call with Ford’s crew and sailors from USS Gettysburg (CG 64), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), USS McFaul (DDG 74) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84). He congratulated the Ford crew on their successful completion of the ship’s six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) and sea trials.

“You all just finished your PIA, and you’re about to deploy now; it all gets better from here,” he said. “The work, the energy that each and every one of you have put into making the capabilities on this ship the best that they can be is extraordinary.”

Del Toro emphasized the critical role that Ford-class carriers play in the Navy’s warfighting capabilities.

“The United States Navy brings power projection to anywhere that it’s needed across the world in a time of crisis,” he said. “We deploy to protect the national security interests of the American people. On behalf of your entire United States Navy, thank you for the hard work that you have done here on USS Gerald R. Ford.”

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers and represents the first major design investment in aircraft carriers since the 1960s. Ford is in Naval Station Norfolk executing a tailored basic phase prior to the ship’s first operational deployment.

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