December 9, 2020 – The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport NATO Naval Forces Weapon and Sensor Accuracy Check Site (FORACS) Sensor Accuracy Test (SAT) team recently executed a successful test on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the lead ship of a new class of aircraft carriers.
Since this class of vessel had not been tested before, a ship check was conducted one year in advance to determine how to set up test equipment, which systems to test, where they were located on the ship and to establish points of contact.
“The expertise and professionalism of the dozens of ship’s force personnel aboard CVN 78 who supported data acquisition and planning, particularly the systems test officer, was amazing,” said test director Mark Gelzinis of Division Newport’s Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department.
“Their support was invaluable to the success of this sensor accuracy evaluation. The success of the test also proved the value of beginning the planning process as early as possible, maintaining detailed documentation through the planning process and involving the right people from the earliest stages.”
Michael Helton, also from Division Newport’s Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department, joined Gelzinis on the test, as well as representatives from Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE). The test evaluated the bearing, range and heading accuracy of shipboard sensors such as radars, sonars, gyrocompasses, electronic warfare systems, electro-optical/laser tracking systems and navigation equipment.
Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA), the parent organization of Division Newport, mandates sensor accuracy tests of this type for all new construction vessels.
The test was conducted in two phases, a dockside test at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia and an at-sea test at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the Bahamas.
As expected, Gelzinis said, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges — particularly with respect to travel from where the team is based in West Palm Beach, Florida. The team ensured COVID/health and safety requirements were observed.
These precautions were meticulously detailed, and required advanced approval by the ship’s medical staff and commanding officer before conducting the tests. Temperature checks also were conducted before boarding.
While Gelzinis admitted it was taxing given all the added precautions they had to take because of the pandemic, the success of the sensor accuracy testing aboard the USS Ford is paramount and a critical element of ship/fleet readiness. Through their work, Gelzinis and his team ensured the warfighters aboard the aircraft carrier have combat-capable assets they need, when they need them.