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Against a blistering 56 mph wind, an F/A-18F Super Hornet laden with fuel roared off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and into the brilliant January sky.
Chalk up another step forward for America's newest and most expensive warship.
The Ford has been at sea since Jan. 16, accompanied by Navy test pilots flying a variety of aircraft. They're taking off and landing on the ship's 5 acre flight deck, taking notes and gathering data that will prove valuable for generations of pilots to come.
The Navy calls it aircraft compatibility testing, and the process marks an important new chapter for a first-in-class ship that has seen its share of challenges.
"We're establishing the launch and recovery capabilities for the history of this class, which is pretty amazing," said Capt. J.J. "Yank" Cummings, the Ford's commanding officer. "The crew is extremely proud, and they recognize the historic context of this."
The Pentagon tried to mothball one of its aircraft carriers twice this year and kept getting shut down
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
The Pentagon has tried twice in the past year to push a plan that would retire the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman decades early and cut its air wing.
The official seal for the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy has been unveiled, and at first glance the design is clean and simple.
The Marine Corps could deploy more F-35-laden 'Lightning Carriers' amid high demand for flattops, Navy secretary says
When Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer pitched sending an aircraft carrier into early retirement, he had an idea for how to answer the call for flattops around the world: an amphibious assault ship loaded up with F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jets.
The Navy reportedly asked Carnival Cruise Line for help with its ongoing aircraft carrier maintenance issues
Navy officials enlisted the help of executives with the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line, the largest cruise company in the world, to identify solutions for the ongoing maintenance issues that have stranded a majority of the service's aircraft carriers in non-deployable status, Business Insider reports.
'We’ve invested $13 billion in a nuclear-powered berthing barge’ —Lawmaker blasts Navy over carrier maintenance delays
As Rep. Elaine Luria sees it, this week's decision to extend the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln speaks to a more serious problem with the aircraft carrier fleet, and the evidence is front and center in Hampton Roads.
The Lincoln will remain deployed for an unspecified time because repairs are taking longer than expected on the USS Harry S. Truman, the carrier assigned to replace it.
But at the moment, not one of the Navy's six East Coast carriers — either at Naval Station Norfolk or Newport News Shipbuilding — are close to combat-ready, Luria said in a House Armed Services hearing this week.
So when a single carrier is sidelined longer than expected, it can become a problem.
In an exchange with Navy leaders, the Virginia Beach Democrat said: "So the taxpayers have made a good investment to have six carriers on the East Coast, plus I understand one on the West Coast — seven of our 11 carriers — in a non-deployable status, and we're having to extend the Lincoln on deployment because of one emergent casualty on one carrier? That's where you desire to be?"