The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completes the first scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, June 18, 2021.


The crew of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) faced many tests and trials during 2021, and true to form, they accomplished even more than what was expected. Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer, highlights some of Ford’s most memorable and successful accomplishments this year.

For the first eight months of the year, Ford completed Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) and the historic Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST), before transiting to Newport News Shipyard in late August to commence a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA).

“This crew displayed a phenomenal amount of resiliency and proficiency during each phase of our operational development,” said Lanzilotta. “While navigating COVID-era difficulties, we were able to get underway during six separate months this year and demonstrate what it means to be undeniably excellent.”

Ford commenced Independent Steaming Event (ISE) 15 on Jan. 28, conducting various drills and system tests as part of PDT&T and continuing carrier qualifications (CQ) for fleet replacement squadron pilots and student naval aviators.

“The crew made history during that underway when the “Gladiators” of VFA-106 completed the first use of the F/A-18’s Precision Landing Mode during initial CQ on an East Coast aircraft carrier,” Lanzilotta noted. “We harnessed a fusion of capabilities, PLM coupled with Ford’s revolutionary Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and showcased the future of Naval Aviation.”

During ISE 17 in March, Ford’s combat systems team completed phase 2A of Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials (CSSQT), participating in multiple complex evolutions to demonstrate their proficiency in operating the warship’s defensive systems. They executed radar tracking exercises, Close-In Weapon System engagements against high-speed maneuvering surface targets and succeeded in tactical dual-air detect-to-engage operations against Hawker Hunter aircraft. Phase 2A was very important to the Apr. 17 completion of CSSQT where test evaluators noted, “the crew crushed it, firing off four missiles [two RIM-116 and two ESSM], and all of them were conducted with precision control by the combat direction center watch teams.”

“CSSQT was a live-fire, hands-on opportunity to prove the self-defense capability of this fine warship. We always intend to use our embarked air wing to influence our adversaries at great ranges from the ship, but if they're able to get a shot at us, this event showed our crew the formidable nature of our organic weapons,” said Lanzilotta. “Even in my early days as Commanding Officer, it was apparent to me that the crew takes tremendous pride and ownership in the execution our warfare areas, and I could not be more proud of our Sailors during these historic accomplishments.”

Additionally, during April’s ISE 18, Ford conducted the second round of fully-integrated operations with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 and executed basic-phase level training events which typically don’t occur until a CSG officially commences work-ups for deployment. CSG-integrated operations included the participation of all warfare commanders, to include a Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 guided-missile cruiser, USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), which had recently returned from deployment.

In an interview with reporters, Lanzilotta commented on the multiple scenarios the CSG team executed during ISE 18, stating “one of the things that I took away, maybe an evolutionary or even revolutionary step forward for Ford-class, is the command and control that’s built into the ship – the internal communications coupled with external communications, how we operate as the ship’s company within the carrier strike group command and control structure, how that information flows in terms of passing targets from one weapons system to another. We’ve been able to do all of that, which is more than just a single target coming in very predictably and shot out of the sky; we certainly did that, but we took that up a level and were able to see how the command and control setup on the Ford-class, I think, is a step up and more smooth, more efficient than the previous ship class.”

Each ISE played a pivotal role in completing the necessary testing of many of the ship’s “first-in-class” systems, to include the accumulation of 8,157 catapult launches and arrested landings on EMALS and AAG, and were crucial to laying the foundation of training and readiness that will ensure the crew sees continued success in 2022.

Following the successful completion of PDT&T, Ford executed an arduous three-month schedule to complete FSST.

“The summer of 2021 should forever be known as ‘boom time,’” joked Lanzilotta. “This phenomenal crew withstood the shock of three 40,000 lb. charges - each progressively closer to the ship than the last - sustaining zero significant casualties. The crew’s expertise in damage control and ship handling was evident by the way they fought the ship - every crew member was in the right place at the right time and ensured that we were able to sail back to Norfolk on our own power. There is no denying that Ford is shock proven.”

With the accomplishments of 2021 in the history books, and PIA more than halfway complete, Lanzilotta said the crew has already started shifting gears back to an operational mindset.

“Crew Cert III is coming up soon with dock trials to follow, and because of the tremendous work from the Sailors and Newport News shipbuilders, Ford is on schedule to depart the yards on time, execute sea trials, and return to our homeport of Norfolk early next year,” said Lanzilotta.

Lanzilotta added that he is exceedingly impressed with the work-ethic and dedication from the crew throughout this year.

“The crew’s efforts are what make Warship 78 so great,” said Lanzilotta. “I can’t wait to be a part of what accomplishments this mighty warship and her crew achieve in 2022.”

Ford is inport at Newport News Shipyard executing PIA, a six-month period of modernization, maintenance, and repairs.


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