Navy discreetly announces Ford's initial operational capability

By Audrey Decker / April 6, 2022 at 5:06 PM

The Navy announced on Tuesday that the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78), the first carrier of its class, reached initial operational capability in December.

Operational capability was "recently declared" with the turnover of the last elevator, according to Capt. Brian Metcalf, program manager of the Navy’s future aircraft carrier program.

“We didn’t announce it,” Metcalf said. “Some people know what IOC means and some people don’t. It’s an acquisition-specific milestone. The conditions on the ship don’t really change because of IOC.”

The ship’s official IOC date is Dec. 22, Metcalf said at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference.

All 11 of Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators have been turned over to the ship’s crew, Metcalf said. The elevators enable crew members to safely move ordnance from weapons magazines to the flight deck.

The carrier has faced long-standing issues with the elevators and reliability concerns with its electromagnetic aircraft launch system and arresting gear.

Ford completed its first planned incremental availability in February and is preparing for deployment early this fall, according to the Navy.

“As Ford is integrated into the fleet operations over the summer, we’ll continue to roll all of these lessons learned into the following ships,” Metcalf said.

John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) is about 85% complete and is on track to be delivered in 2024, Metcalf said. The ship will feature a new radar system, combat suite and joint strike fighter capability, he added.

Enterprise (CVN-80) is 15% complete and the keel will be laid this spring, targeting delivery in 2028, Metcalf said. Enterprise is the first carrier built completely with digital modeling, he said.