The US Navy just turned the future guns of its new Ford-class supercarriers on a drone in a landmark live-fire test

US Department of DefenceThe USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, on April 8, 2017.
  • Raytheon and the US Navy recently tested an integrated combat system for the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier for the first time.
  • During the test, the Ship Self-Defence System detected and tracked a drone, then eliminated it with an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Raytheon said.
  • The test was a big step forward for the new class of aircraft carriers, which has faced several development setbacks.

The US Navy, together with Raytheon, recently put the combat system developed to defend the new Ford-class supercarriers to the test against an unmanned aerial vehicle off the coast of California, Raytheon announced Tuesday.

The target drone was eliminated by Raytheon’s Ship Self-Defence System Integrated Combat System, a collection of advanced sensors and missiles. The system detected and tracked the target and then fired an Evolved SeaSparrow Missile, taking out the simulated threat.

The system had Rolling Airframe Missiles ready as well, but this added layer of defence was unnecessary since the ESSM got the job done, Raytheon said.

The system, designed to protect Navy carriers and amphibious assault ships by tracking and intercepting incoming threats, was tested on a test vessel, not the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Nonetheless, the test appears to be a step forward for the embattled $US13 billion supercarrier.

“The design of our Ship Self-Defence System enabled seamless integration of the sensors and missiles with the CVN 78 combat system during this first-of-its-kind test, proving the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Mike Fabel, Raytheon’s SSDS program manager, said in a statement.

He added that the successful test brought the Ford “one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”

The Ford, the first of the Navy’s new class of carriers, has faced criticism as it continues to encounter expensive problems, from the ship’s electromagnetic catapults to the weapons elevators, which the Navy secretary has staked his job on fixing.

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More testing of the weapons system is scheduled for this year, and the Ford is expected to be deployed in 2022.

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