Ford Carrier Strike Group completes first exercise of initial deployment

By Nick Wilson / October 25, 2022 at 4:16 PM

The Navy's first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and Carrier Strike Group 12 concluded a three-week exercise alongside NATO allies, according to a Monday service announcement.

The carrier strike group collaborated with Canadian, German and Spanish vessels to complete exercises that included “dynamic maneuvers, simulated strait transits, flight operations, weapon systems testing, communication drills, and cyber response,” the release states. The exercise, known as Task Force Exercise 23-2, ran from Oct. 5 to 23.

Ford left Naval Station Norfolk, VA on Oct. 4 to begin its first official deployment. The Navy announced that this initial “service retained deployment” would focus on testing Ford’s capabilities and exercising with partners and allies in the Atlantic.

Ford is expected to embark on a global force management deployment in 2023.

In addition to CVN-78, the Ford CSG includes Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser Normandy (CG-60), according to the Navy release.

Two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the Bulkeley (DDG-84) and the James E. Williams (DDG-95), also participated in the exercise in preparation for upcoming independent-duty deployments.

“All entities within Carrier Strike Group 12 benefited tremendously from this CSG 4-led exercise,” CSG 12 commander Rear Adm. Greg Huffman said in a statement accompanying the release. “As the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group continues on its first deployment, the relationships built and capabilities refined with our NATO partners will continue to enhance our flexibility while operating forward.”

Although Ford’s deployment faced delays due to reliability issues with the carrier’s weapons elevators and electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and arresting gear, Navy officials have expressed confidence that these systems are now ready for operational testing and use during the deployment.

Speaking at an Oct. 20 event, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro applauded Ford’s capabilities, saying “despite all the challenges that the Ford had getting underway, it is indeed the most powerful aircraft carrier in the world today.”

The carrier is the first of at least four Ford-class vessels the Navy will procure, with delivery of a second carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), expected in 2024.