The Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), returned to Naval Station Norfolk, VA on Nov. 26, completing its first official deployment.
The Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) set sail on Oct. 4 and spent two months navigating the North Atlantic while testing the carrier’s capabilities in preparation for its first Global Force Management Deployment, expected to begin in calendar year 2023.
The Navy called the expedition a “service-retained deployment,” meaning that Ford deployed under the authority of the chief of naval operations rather than that of a geographic combatant commander.
During the deployment, Ford conducted a variety of exercises including air defense, anti-submarine warfare, distributed maritime operations, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, according to a Navy release.
The Ford CSG collaborated with eight partner nations -- Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden -- focusing on interoperability in maritime operations. Ford joined a coalition of NATO allies for Exercise Silent Wolverine and participated in a multicarrier exercise alongside fellow U.S. carrier George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).
Ford also made its first international port call in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and its first European port visit in Portsmouth, U.K.
“Through integrated and combined operations such as live and inert ordnance expenditure by Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and air defense, we set the stage for operating with Ford-class technologies in a deployed environment,” said Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, in a statement included in the release. “We completed more than 1,250 sorties, expended 78.3 tons of ordnance and completed 13 underway replenishments -- and we accomplished this because of what Ford-class aircraft carriers bring to the fight.”
Ford is the first new U.S. aircraft carrier designed in over 40 years and includes 23 new technologies that enhance aircraft launch capabilities, propulsion, power generation and ordnance handling, according to the Navy’s release. These technologies also reduce the number of personnel needed to operate the vessel compared to Nimitz-class carriers.
Although the deployment was long delayed by reliability issues with some of these new technologies, including the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and arresting gear, Navy officials have expressed confidence that these systems are now ready for operational use.
The carrier is the first of at least four Ford-class ships the Navy plans to procure, with delivery of a second vessel, the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), expected in 2024.