The US Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) has departed Naval Station Norfolk to undergo a planned incremental availability (PIA).

The six-month PIA of CVN 78 will include modernisation, maintenance, and repairs. It is the final maintenance phase before the ship becomes operational.

Earlier this month, CVN 78 carried out the third and final explosive event off the coast of Jacksonville in Florida, marking the end of the first-in-class aircraft carrier’s Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST).

The four-month testing evolution of FSST had seen the ship endure the impact of three 40,000lb underwater blasts that were released at distances progressively nearer to the vessel.

During this period, teams will carry out extra detailed inspections, evaluate any damage endured during the shots, and continue with modernisation and maintenance works.

USS Gerald R Ford commanding officer captain Paul Lanzilotta said: “Team Wolverine is ready for this brief but important maintenance period in Newport News, because we’re pumped for what comes next.

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“This is a first-in-class warship that will lead the future of carrier naval aviation for years to come, and this PIA is the last milestone for us to complete prior to our first work ups and deployment.

“This ship and the crew performed exceptionally well during shock trials, and much of the credit goes to the ship designers and builders who put in the technical rigor to ensure Ford-class carriers will sustain Naval Aviation for generations to come.”

In April, CVN 78 achieved a key milestone during the final independent steaming event of an 18-month Post Delivery Test & Trials (PDT&T) period.