Sunday, April 14, 2024

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford leaves on its first deployment

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the U.S. Navy’s new and highly-advanced aircraft carrier, departed on its first official voyage in the Atlantic, paving the way for its deployment next year. This is a huge milestone since the U.S. Navy hasn’t commissioned a new generation of aircraft carriers in almost 40 years.

It is the first of four of the U.S. Navy’s most recent Ford-class aircraft carriers. The carrier’s construction officially began in November 2009 and was commissioned in 2017 by former President Donald Trump. The Navy has begun construction on the next two ships in the class, USS Kennedy and USS Enterprise.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is considered the largest warship ever built and the most expensive one in the world. Gerald R. Ford is intended to be the first of a class of aircraft carriers that offer significant performance improvements over the previous Nimitz class. The new aircraft carrier is equipped with new advanced technology, including nearly three times the electrical-generation capacity of any previous carrier.

It is considered the U.S. Navy's most modern and cutting-edge aircraft carrier.
It is considered the U.S. Navy’s most modern and cutting-edge aircraft carrier. Credit: Sea Forces

The aircraft carrier is 1,092-foot-long (333-meters) and costs a little over $13 billion. Powered by two Bechtel A1B PWR nuclear reactors, it can cruise at more than 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). Although much larger, it requires 25% fewer crew members onboard, thanks to advanced automation systems.

The CVN 78 uses the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) to launch aircraft off the vessel instead of the previous steam catapult system. According to the Navy, the technology will shorten the time between launches and reduce the strain placed on the aircraft as they are launched from the carrier. The vessel will get to practice things like long-range maritime strikes, air defense, and naval integration.

On March 29, 2022, Ford finished its Flight Deck Certification and Carrier Air Traffic Control Center Certification. Once out at sea, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2 Hawkeyes, MH-60R Seahawks, E/A-18G Growlers, and MH-60S Knighthawks assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 conducted operations to demonstrate the capabilities of the ship and crew. Prior to the ship’s first deployment, Ford will undergo basic tailored training that includes certification for the flight deck and carrier requirements.

The Ford is currently doing workups, which are a series of underway periods conducting training, running drills, conducting flight operations, and completing certifications in preparation for its first deployment and the U.S. Navy’s first Ford-class full deployment.