After spending over twelve years in the shipyard in Newport News, the US Navy‘s largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), has recently departed from its naval homeport for its first global deployment.

The lead ship of her class, the USS Gerald R. Ford, previously conducted operations and training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean following its commissioning in 2017. She replaced the decommissioned USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which ended her over half-a-century active service in December 2012. The massive aircraft carrier returned to Naval Station Norfolk in late 2022 after her two-month maiden deployment to undergo refit and rest for its crew.

By May, Ford had completed its preparations for its second deployment and, together with the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG), left its homeport to join the US Pacific Fleet on Thursday, May 2.

Embarking on a 7-month-long Deployment

During the departure ceremony, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 12 (CSG-12), Rear Admiral Greg Huffman, highlighted the importance of the GRFCSG in maintaining peace and stability at sea and reassuring American partners and Allies of its commitment to “interoperability and maritime stability,” particularly in the Pacific region.

This second deployment of Ford also marks the flagship’s first combat deployment and will “operationalize” new technologies installed during the last two months of refitting.

At the ceremony, Ford’s commander Captain Rick Burgess expressed his confidence in the ship’s crew and their readiness for the upcoming seven-month-long deployment. He emphasized how the crew’s rigorous training and support from their families and friends have prepared them for this mission.

USS Gerald R. Ford Deployment 2023
USS Gerald R. Ford’s second deployment ceremony (Image source: DVIDS)

Moreover, Burgess highlighted the significance of Ford and her crew’s contribution to “the future of naval aviation” and how they “are actively reshaping” the capabilities of the US Navy by expanding its scope in preparation for future challenges.

The CSG-12, established in early 2022, is the Navy’s newest strike group led by the aircraft carrier Ford. It is a highly versatile and “inherently flexible naval force” capable of rapid deployment to different regions of the world—as needed. It strives to handle emerging missions, deter potential adversaries, reassure allies and partners, enhance security, and ensure the free flow of global commerce.

Other vessels under the CSG-12 that will serve as escorts to Ford include the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) and three guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS McFaul (DDG-74) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116).

Besides the CSG-12 crew and the ships under the Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, the aviation unit Carrier Air Wing (CVW-8) will also embark aboard Ford for global deployment, including nine squadrons operating fighter aircrafts F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, E-2 Hawkeye, MH-60R Seahawk, and MH-60S Seahawk.

Quick Facts About CVN-78

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is America’s newest naval pride, known as its largest and most advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ever developed and deployed. She carries the namesake of Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., who served as the 38th US President from 1974 to 1977.

Apart from leading the country, President Ford also served in the Navy and was a decorated naval officer for his service during World War II in the Pacific Theater.

Newport News Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries, began the construction in 2005 with a $5.1 billion contract and laid its keel down four years later in November 2009. The Navy initially expected to receive USS Gerald R. Ford three years after decommissioning the aging Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, thereby serving as the latter’s replacement. However, due to unforeseen delays, the manufacturer turned over the sophisticated aircraft carrier later than expected in May 2017. Less than two months later, President Donald Trump formally commissioned the ship, with her maiden deployment in the fall of 2022.

USS Gerald R. Ford Transit
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) departs Naval Station Norfolk (Image source: DVIDS)

As the aircraft carrier boasts the most technologically advanced features, USS Gerald R. Ford‘s whopping $13.3 billion was no surprise. Nonetheless, the Navy otherwise projected to save billions in the next five decades as, unlike its predecessors, Ford has much lower maintenance costs and smaller crew requirements.

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She measures over a thousand feet long, displaces 100,000 tons when fully loaded, and can reach a speed of more than 30 knots (35 miles per hour). Additionally, the ship can hold up to 75 aircraft and has a complement of approximately 4,539, including the air wing force.

It is equipped with cutting-edge technology, such as a new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and an advanced arresting gear system (AAG), further boosting its capability to operate effectively in various missions.

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