US' $13 billion aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is now finally at sea

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the United States Navy's most modern and cutting-edge aircraft carrier, makes her first deployment.
Christopher McFadden
The USS Gerald R. Ford sets sail.

Sea Forces 

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of four of the U.S. Navy's most recent Ford-class aircraft carriers, made the news when she departed for her first deployment on Tuesday from Norfolk, Virginia.

This is significant as the U.S. Navy hasn't commissioned a new generation of aircraft carriers in almost 40 years.

According to a U.S. Navy press release, the carrier's construction officially started in November 2009, and former President Donald Trump commissioned it in 2017.

During the keel-laying, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilders, and U.S. Navy personnel attended the ceremony. A ceremonial ship launch called a "christening" involves lowering the ship into the water. Gerald R. Ford's daughter Susan Ford-Bales christened the Ford on November 9, 2013.

US' $13 billion aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is now finally at sea
The USS Gerald R. Ford has a very potent collection of aircraft in her hangers.

Susan Ford-Bales (Gerald R. Ford's daughter) concluded the ship's final minutes ashore by christening USS Gerald R. Ford on behalf of the United States of America. The vessel was christened by breaking a champagne bottle across the bow, a custom stretching back hundreds of years.

Construction of the USS Kennedy and USS Enterprise, the following two Ford-class carriers, are also underway.

According to the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier uses the electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, and boasts new, cutting-edge technology, including "nearly three times the amount of electrical power" compared to the existing Nimitz-class carriers.

The EMALS system uses electric power to launch aircraft off the vessel instead of the previous steam catapult systems used in older carriers. According to a Navy spokesman, the technology will shorten the time between launches and reduce the strain placed on the aircraft as they are launched from the carrier.

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Dual-band radar, a more sophisticated radar system, is also installed on the ship. According to the same official, it will be the only Ford-class carrier with this kind of radar.

US' $13 billion aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is now finally at sea
The USS Gerald R. Ford is heading out on her first deployment.

On March 29, 2022, Ford completed its flight deck and carrier air traffic control center certification. Once at sea, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8's F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2 Hawkeyes, MH-60R Seahawks, E/A-18G Growlers, and MH-60S Knighthawks conducted operations to demonstrate the capabilities of the ship and crew. Before the ship's initial deployment, Ford will undergo a basic specialized training that includes certification for the flight deck and carrier requirements.

Just before its first deployment, the U.S. Navy's first Ford-class carrier underwent workups or a series of "underway periods" spent performing training, running exercises, conducting flight operations, and finishing certifications to ensure it was ready for its journey. Since it was built, the Ford and its crew have grown significantly in experience and training, and they will excel over the subsequent deployments, states the U.S. Navy in its official press release.

Where is the USS Gerald R. Ford going?

According to a U.S. Navy official, the USS Gerald Ford and the carrier strike group will conduct operations alongside allies and partners in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, which are the 2nd and 6th fleet's respective areas of responsibility. The official also noted that the deployment would be shorter than the typical six-month deployment.

"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," Carrier Strike Group 12 Commander Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman said in a statement.

According to a U.S. Navy announcement, the deployment will involve "approximately 9,000 personnel from nine nations, 20 ships, and 60 aircraft." According to the press release, the US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden are among the countries taking part in the exercise.

A second Navy officer stated that while the USS Gerald Ford deployed on Tuesday, the other ships in the carrier strike group will depart to join the Ford on Wednesday. According to people in the know, this is expected for these kinds of deployments.

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