Ford aircraft carrier begins first deployment

By Nick Wilson / October 4, 2022 at 3:05 PM

The Navy's first-in-class aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, left Naval Station Norfolk, VA today for its first official deployment.

Ford (CVN-78) was initially scheduled to depart on Monday, but was delayed for one day by strong winds and adverse weather conditions.

The Ford Carrier Strike Group will join a coalition of partner nations in the North Atlantic to conduct a variety of exercises in what the Navy has designated as a “service-retained” deployment.

The exact operating area and length of the deployment are unknown, but it is expected to be relatively brief. Ford is scheduled to begin its first Global Force Management Deployment sometime in the coming year.

The strike group includes multiple destroyers, the guided missile cruiser Normandy (CG-60), replenishment oiler Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188) and the majority of Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8), according to an announcement last week from U.S. 2nd Fleet.

Exercises will focus on air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, distributed maritime operations, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, the announcement said. Last week, Ford’s commanding officer said the carrier will also conduct a foreign port call during the deployment.

Persistent issues with Ford’s weapons elevators and electromagnetic aircraft launch system and arresting gear have long delayed deployment. The carrier was commissioned in 2017, but did not reach initial operational capability until December 2021.

The vessel is the first of at least four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to procure. Delivery of the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) is anticipated in 2024 and the Enterprise (CVN-80) is expected in 2028.