The Pentagon has decided that the flagship Ford-class aircraft carrier must undergo shock trials at sea before deployment, effectively overruling the US Navy’s proposal to skip the trials and deploy the carrier to provide some relief to the overstretched surface fleet.
The number-two civilian leader at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, wrote in a March 26 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “We agree with your view that a test in normal sequence is more prudent and pragmatic.” The two highest-ranking senators on the committee, John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI) opposed the Navy’s idea and wanted the shock tests to proceed as usual.
The tests consist of detonating underwater charges near the carrier to measure the ship’s survivability and reveal vulnerabilities that could make the difference in whether the vessel sinks or swims in live combat situations.
The USS Gerald Ford was completed behind schedule and over budget when it was commissioned in July 2017. It turned out to be the costliest ship the Navy has ever built, at a price tag of $12.9 billion. As has been reported, the Navy wanted to temporarily ditch shock testing in an effort to fast-track the ship into combat duty. As a workaround, the service floated the idea of putting the second Ford-class carrier through the trials instead and making any adjustments to the whole Ford-class fleet thereafter.
The Defense Department’s Operational Test and…