Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft Carrier USS Gerald R. Ford Departs Norfolk for first warfighting deployment

Even though the US Navy has not specified the exact operating areas of the Ford CSG during its current deployment, USS Gerald R. Ford will continue the carrier presence in the Mediterranean Sea, which the US began in December 2021 ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk in the afternoon of Tuesday May 2, 2023 for its first global deployment, USNI News reports.

According to ship spotters, first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) sailed down the James River into the Atlantic around 3:30 p.m.

Commander Capt. Rick Burgess said that the deployment of the Ford CSG will operationalize a new series of technologies aboard the carrier.

“This ship and crew are actively reshaping the face of our Navy’s capabilities and strengthening the future of naval aviation,” he said.

Even though the US Navy has not specified the exact operating areas of the Ford CSG during its current deployment, defense officials have told USNI News that Ford will continue the carrier presence in the Mediterranean Sea, which the US began in December 2021 ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

“Our presence at sea throughout the deployment will provide reassurance to our allies and partners that sea lanes will remain open, and our joint operations will demonstrate our commitment to interoperability and maritime stability,” Rear Admiral Greg Huffman, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 12, said in a Navy news release.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier

The deployment of Ford, its escorts and the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 comes almost six years after the carrier’s commissioning.

Burgess highlighted the training in the lead-up to this deployment. Last month, the Ford CSG finished its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), which prepared the carrier, its escorts, and air wing for the deployment.

The 1,106-foot carrier’s new electromagnetic-powered aircraft launch system (EMALS) and the advanced arresting gear are two of the much-touted technologies unique to Ford-class carriers. EMALS uses stored kinetic energy and solid-state electrical power conversion to propel an aircraft along a track and off the carrier, while the arresting gear is a turbo-electric system designed for more controlled deceleration of aircraft.

The technology, the Navy said, means the air-wing can get into the air — and return to the battle after rearming and refueling — faster than with the traditional steam-and-hydraulics systems that have been the mainstay for decades.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, in total, the strike group deployed with more than 6,000 sailors across all platforms.

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The strike group includes Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 staff, Gerald R. Ford, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 staff and units, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and an information warfare commander.

The ships of DESRON 2 are the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage, USS McFaul and USS Thomas Hudner, which are scheduled to depart their homeports of Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Station Mayport, respectively, Tuesday.

The squadrons of CVW-8 embarked aboard Gerald R. Ford are the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9, the “Bear Aces” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 124, the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 located in Norfolk.

The “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, all of Virginia Beach, will deploy with the airwing, as well as the “Gray Wolves” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142 located in Whidbey Island, Wash., and the “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 located in Mayport, Florida.

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riley McDowell / U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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