The US Navy’s Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) has completed its six-month planned incremental availability (PIA).

The PIA conclusion was marked by the completion of sea trials. The ship departed to its homeport, Naval Station Norfolk, on 28 February.

Crew of the Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) vessel will soon start training and certification. The US Navy is set to deploy its new carrier for the first time in autumn this year.

During the PIA, Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) performed the maintenance and modernisation work of the carrier. 

Upgrade works ranged from adding updates to galley, reconfiguration of command-and-control spaces, to modernising the carrier’s Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) system.

Before entering the PIA in September 2021, Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) completed its Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST) off the coast of Mayport.

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According to the US Navy, the ship performed well during the shock trials.

US Navy aircraft carriers programme executive officer rear admiral James Downey said: “Ford required only 20% of the repair work we saw with TR. The required FSST-related repairs, about 85% were completed by ship’s force, as opposed to work that needed to be completed by the shipyard.

“The navy will continue to incorporate lessons learned from CVN 78’s FSST to further harden follow-on ships in the Ford class, the future USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80), and Doris Miller (CVN 81).”

Downey added: “Historically, about 40% of modernisation work on Nimitz-class carriers goes into rip out, which involves cutting and welding.

“The navy specifically designed Ford with a flexible infrastructure, so you can build in new capabilities to enhance system integration that facilitate immediate operational gains for the warfighter.”

Prior to its maiden deployment, Ford will conduct system qualification tests, three phases of air warfare training, flight deck certification and a combat systems operational readiness evaluation.