Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) weapons department, demonstrate weapons handling and transfer proficiency in the hangar bay during Consolidated Operability Test Aug. 20, 2020. Ford is in port Naval Station Norfolk for a scheduled Window of Opportunity for maintenance during her 18-month post-delivery test and trials phase of operations.


USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department completed its Consolidated Operability Test (COT) Aug. 22, demonstrating the ship’s proficiency in conventional air-launched weapons handling and stowage systems operability.

The milestone achieved added significance because Ford’s COT was expanded to cover inspections and demonstrations of the unique weapons spaces that set Ford apart from Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, to include Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs), forward and aft weapons handling areas, additional ready service magazines, and larger aircraft armament system storage areas.

Lt. Cmdr. Paul Castillo, Ford’s ordnance handling officer, said the demonstrations are some of the most difficult procedures a weapons handler would perform in the fleet and makes the crew learn the full capability of their equipment and work environment.

“I’m extremely proud of my team for this accomplishment,” said Castillo. “They demonstrated their proficiency with multiple tasks, one of which involved taking the largest missile container in the inventory and maneuvering it through the smallest access point and elevator door—a very challenging feat.”

The four-day test involved multiple COT members from Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic (CNAL); Naval Sea Systems Command; Naval Air Systems Command Shipboard Weapons Integration Team; Naval Ordnance Safety & Security Activity; Naval Packaging, Handling, Storage & Transportation Center; and Huntingtin Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding Division (HII-NNS).

Dion Edon, CNAL’s Air and Ship Integration Liaison, recognized the Ford team’s impressive performance during the inspection, noting the ship conducted the evolution one week earlier than planned due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“Weapons department's leadership was continuous, engaging, and undoubtedly beneficial, providing that extra motivation to all when navigating from one display of capability to the next,” said Edon. “[The crews] professional contributions were vital to showcasing numerous demonstrations involving the safe and effective staging, handling, and stowage of conventional air-launched weapons, equipment, and stowage systems.”

Edon added that the validation of ordnance magazine spaces and ready service lockers are key elements underpinning Ford's forward progression in executing the ship’s operational missions.

HII-NNS has delivered six AWEs to Ford, and the remaining five are on track to be certified by the time Ford undergoes Full Ship Shock Trials, scheduled for the third quarter of FY21.

Ford is scheduled to conduct COT Part 2, which will largely focus on Lower Stage Weapons Elevator (LSWE) 7 and emergency handling procedures, following certification of LSWE 7 this Fall. LWSE 7 services the same magazine groups as LSWE 5, providing critical redundancy and survivability needed to ensure Ford’s weapons department can support the mission and conduct ordnance handling evolutions safely.

COT events feed into Ford’s final certification to handle and store explosive material, a prerequisite for deployed operations.

For more information, contact USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Public Affairs Officer at pao@cvn78.navy.mil.

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