PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (August 03, 2017)—A test pilot from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at NAS Patuxent River, flying Salty Dog 123, an F/A-18F Super Hornet, completed the first arrested landing and catapult launch July 28 on the newly commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) aircraft carrier.
Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Struck, flying one of VX-23's instrumented aircraft, completed the first arrested trap on CVN 78 using the new Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system.
After he taxied to the forward part of the carrier's newly designed flight deck, he was the first pilot to be catapulted from CVN 78 using the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).
"Completing two firsts in one day is amazing. I'm very lucky to be one of a handful of pilots who was the first to land and then the first to launch off a first-in-class ship like CVN 78," said Struck. "The landings were a rush of adrenaline as always but made easier using Precision Landing Modes [aka MAGIC CARPET], and the arresting gear performed as expected."
Aside from not seeing steam wafting up from the catapult track, the launch felt just a bit different—smoother in fact. "I am a believer in EMALS," said Struck. VX-23's work on CVN 78 is far from over, he added.
"This is just the first round of testing for us on CVN 78," said Cmdr. James Carver, commanding officer, VX-23. "This first round of testing lasted over four hours, and our test pilot did four arrested landings and four catapult launches."
"VX-23's pilots are proud to be the first of many hundreds of naval aviators that will fly from this carrier over her career," added Carver.
"VX-23 is scheduled to go back to CVN 78 in the fall for additional testing," said Carver. "We are using instrumented test aircraft for Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT) during CVN 78's next round of testing. The current plan calls for the following round of fixed-wing flight operations to be done with fleet F/A-18E/F squadrons."
"We love being part of the team that will get this carrier ready for operational missions," said Carver.
VX-23 is Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Divsion's (NAWCAD) largest flight test organization. The squadron's mission is to support the Research Development Test & Evaluation of fixed wing tactical aircraft by providing aircraft and pilot assets, maintenance services, safety oversight and facility support for these efforts.
Primary areas of support include flying qualities and performance evaluations, shipboard suitability, propulsion system testing, tactical aircraft mission system testing, ordnance compatibility and ballistic efforts, reliability and maintainability assessments, flight fidelity simulation and flight control software development.
The squadron also provides Government Flight Representatives, test monitoring, chase aircraft support, and facilities for contractor demonstration, validation and development work involving tactical aircraft and associated systems.