Ford Carrier Group to Actually Deploy Next Week (Kinda)

220917-N-TU663-1095 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 17, 2022) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations, Sept. 17, 2022. Gerald R. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications and workups for a scheduled deployment this fall. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel Perez)

Just a brief 1,899 days after she was commissioned, “Warship 78” will head out on her (likely brief) inaugural deployment.

Class leader USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)— full of untried technology such as Advanced Weapons Elevators, advanced arrest gear, new and 25 percent more powerful Bechtel A1B reactors, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, while being crewed by a complement almost a third smaller than the same sized supercarriers she will be replacing (2,600 on Ford vs 3,532 on Nimitz)– has had lots of teething problems to be sure.

But they think the bugs are all worked out. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 13, 2022) Aircraft attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 sit on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck as the ship steams through the Atlantic Ocean, April 13, 2022. Ford is underway conducting carrier qualifications and strike group integration prior to operational deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riley McDowell)

First ordered in 2008, her story is a decade and a half in the making and, following months of post-delivery tests and trials (PDT&T), Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST), repairs, retrofitting, and flight deck certification with CVW-8 and supporting ops of Training Wing (TW 1), U.S. Fleet Forces Command announced yesterday she would operationally deploy to the 2nd Fleet on 3 October– Monday.

Her carrier group won’t go far– largely still in the North Atlantic– and won’t be gone long, working through eight phases and just one scheduled (but undisclosed) foreign port call, but it will be operational.

Now, Ford won’t have a full airwing but will carry aircraft of each of CVW-8s eight squadrons, and be escorted by three destroyers (USS Ramage, USS McFaul, USS Thomas Hudner) and a beautiful endangered cruiser (USS Normandy) along with a National Security Cutter (USCGC Hamilton) and two MSC-manned auxiliaries (a T-AO and a T-AKE). Further, she will be joined at sea at least part of the time by at least 13 Allied ships and submarines supplied by Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. A NATO-ish task force, in other words.

With the whole Nordstream situation and the tensions in Eastern Europe, the deployment is timely.

As noted by the Navy:

Ford is the flagship of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) and their first operational deployment will include air, maritime, and ground assets from NATO Allies and partner nations. The strike group will set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, and will operate in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group will deploy, integrating with Allies and partners, to demonstrate its unmatched, multi-domain, full-spectrum lethality in the Atlantic,” said Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “This trans-Atlantic deployment will strengthen our relationships, capacity, and trust to forge a more peaceful and prosperous world by leveraging the ‘One Atlantic’ Command and Control Concept.”

Innovation and interoperability are the key focal points of the GRFCSG’s deployment, allowing allied and partner nations to strengthen the collective defense of the Atlantic as well as to mature integration for future operations.

“The Atlantic is an area of strategic interest,” said Vice Adm. Dan Dwyer, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Our primary goal is to contribute to a peaceful, stable, and conflict-free Atlantic region through the combined naval power of our Allies and partners. The deployment of USS Gerald R. Ford’s carrier strike group is the natural progression of our renewed commitment to the Atlantic.”

Along with Allies and partners, the GRFCSG will focus training on air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, distributed maritime operations, mine countermeasures, and amphibious operations.

“This deployment is an opportunity to push the ball further down the field and demonstrate the advantage that Ford and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 bring to the future of naval aviation, to the region, and to our Allies and partners,” said Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12.

Still, it is about time and the Navy says Ford will deploy on a more expeditionary six-month-ish cruise next year, so look at this Fall Excursion as a dress rehearsal.

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