The first aircraft carrier of its class, the USS Gerald R. Ford has returned to Naval Station Norfolk after completing a 52-day “duty retained” deployment, her first since giving birth in 2017.
During her deployment, the carrier trained with a number of Allied warships and called at Halifax, Nova Scotia and Plymouth in the United Kingdom. He sailed a total of about 9,300 nautical miles.
For his first deployment Ford remained under the control of the US Navy, reflecting its developmental status. Ford’s the first deployment took a long time. His launch and recovery gear and weapon elevators are all electromagnetic, a technological departure from the previous one Nimitz-class carriers and post-delivery installation and commissioning work lasted over four years.
His electromagnetically operated gun elevators were among the most difficult systems to implement and the last was completed in late 2021. Now that they are operational, they allow Ford’s the crew moves ammunition from the magazine to the cockpit much faster, which is essential for generating flights.
Assets belonging to the navies of Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden escorted Ford and conducted exercises with him during the trip.
“We sailed with our allies and partners and trained together, tirelessly, day and night, and we are stronger for it,” said USS Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta. Ford. “We laid the foundation for working together Ford-class technologies in an embedded environment. We flew over 1,250 sorties, expended 78.3 tons of ordnance, and completed 13 ongoing replenishments—and we succeeded Ford-class aircraft carriers bring to the fight.
Ford was designed to generate 160 flights in a 12-hour flying day or 270 flights in 24 hours at high power. The generation of her flights during her deployment equates to a design speed of about eight days; The Pentagon’s Director of Operations Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) concluded that it was unlikely the carrier would be able to reach the 160-day mark.
“The target [rate] the threshold is well above historical rates achieved and is based on unrealistic assumptions, including fair weather and unrestricted visibility, with the expectation that aircraft emergencies, vessel equipment failures, vessel maneuvers, and structural deficiencies will not adversely affect flight operations,” DOT&E said in its 2021 report. “Poor reliability of key systems supporting flight generation with CVN-78 could result in successive delays.”