Indian Head, Md., –
In 2005, the Navy began construction of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first in the Gerald R. Ford class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. This new class of carriers provided cutting-edge technology, including design features that improved efficiency and reduced operating costs. In 2019, a team of Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division Systems Engineering (E) Department employees traveled to Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, to elevate the vessel’s capabilities even further.
The Ford-Class Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWE) are among the Navy’s top technical priorities. To complete the AWEs in the most efficient timeline possible, the Navy’s Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition directed that a team of government and industry experts work collaboratively to accomplish the tasking.
A team of E Department, System Safety Division employees — Dennis Brown, Melissa Milani and Craig Pilecki — coordinated both on and off-site over the course of several months to assist in the installation of AWE Linked and Integrated Fix Team Engineering (LIFT- E) efforts. Once embedded, the team collaborated with other government and technical experts to identify deficiencies, develop corrective measures, institute a plan of action and expedite the completion of repairs and testing.
During the initial development of the hazard assessment report, the System Safety team briefed the newly designated LIFT-E team, who were in place to correct design flaws, identify deficiencies and institute a plan of action to expedite the completion of repairs and testing. The LIFT-E team included specialized engineers in the industry with subject matter expertise in the advanced technology used to design the AWE. The safety team provided insight on safety considerations for the engineers to address while correcting the design issue and worked with the LIFT-E team to develop solutions.
“The team worked tirelessly to meet condensed schedules, and I am confident that the efforts will impact the future of the AWE systems. The team continues to work with the contract customer, Naval Air Force Atlantic Command and the fleet to ensure the crew can perform their jobs safely. With multiple identified risks, [our work] may have prevented the crew from ‘training as they fight,’” said Craig Pilecki, System Safety Division engineer and the Gerald R. Ford AWE system safety lead.
Surface System Safety Branch Manager Dennis Brown said, “It is important to see the impact the team is making on the Gerald R. Ford AWE. Many of the lessons learned have come from the safety analyses and certification assessments they have performed.”
With the Gerald R. Ford’s renovations complete, the System Safety team was recognized for its efforts. Deputy Commander, NAVSEA, Ship Design, Integration and Naval Engineering Rear Adm. Jason Lloyd recognized the team with letters of appreciation in December 2020.
Lloyd expressed the gratitude of not only the command but on behalf of Sailors who will serve aboard the Gerald R. Ford. “Your technical competence, leadership, outstanding professionalism and personal commitment to the mission proved to be the enabling factors that made the 90-day LIFT-E effort successful,” Lloyd said. “You were an indispensable asset to AWE LIFT Engineering Team. Your efforts were in keeping with the finest traditions of the Naval Service, and your support will have a lasting positive effect on CVN 78 Class AWE.”