Navy: USS Gerald R. Ford Set to Deploy in May, Kennedy Deployment Schedule Unaffected by Delivery Change  

April 4, 2023 5:23 PM
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) transits the Atlantic Ocean on March 19, 2023. US Navy Photo

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – First-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is set to deploy the first week of May following the completion of a series of certification exercises, service officials said on Tuesday.

Ford returned on Sunday from its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) that served as a month-long, high-pressure stress test for the carrier, air wing and its escorts ahead of its first world-wide deployment. Carrier Strike Group 4 engineered the test for Ford, Carrier Air Wing 8, its escorts and Carrier Strike Group 12.

While the Navy hasn’t said where it will operate, USNI News understands it will continue the consistent carrier presence in the Mediterranean Sea that the U.S. began in December 2021 ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

Last month, USNI News visited the carrier ahead of the graduation exercise. The chief test for the air wing was the carrier strike group’s blue water certification, which is the ability for the air wing to safely operate at sea and out of range of a land-based runway.

“She earned all of her certifications and met all the requirements to deploy. She’s designated to deploy the first week of May,” Ford-class carrier program manager Capt. Brian Metcalf said on Tuesday.
“We expect that to be at least a six-month deployment.”

Originally commissioned in 2017, Ford’s entry into the carrier deployment cycle comes after five years of stops and starts related to the new technology designed to improve the number of combat aircraft the carrier can launch and recover over the legacy Nimitz-class carriers.

“Ford-class aircraft carriers introduce 23 new technologies, including Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Advanced Arresting Gear and Advanced Weapons Elevators,” reads a statement U.S. 2nd Fleet issued this week.
“The new systems incorporated onto Ford-class ships are designed to generate a higher sortie rate with a 20 percent smaller crew than a Nimitz-class carrier, paving the way forward for naval aviation.”

The Navy pitched the Ford class to Congress as a 30 percent improvement over the Nimitz carriers’ maximum sortie generation rate of 120 in a 12-hour period. The Navy will wait until after Ford‘s upcoming deployment to test the maximum sortie generation rate, Metcalf said.

“That weeklong final measurement of sortie generation rate will happen after this deployment,” he said.

The Navy’s announcement of Ford’s timeline comes after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s decision to extend the deployment of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group beyond seven months following attacks on U.S. forces in Syria in March.

The next carrier in the class, John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), is set to deliver in 2025, a year later than planned, USNI News previously reported.

“She will still deploy on time because we won’t have the long-planned post-delivery timeline that we originally planned for by inserting that work before delivery,” he said.
“We’re basically just rearranging some of the dates between now and the operational deployment.

Kennedy will be the first Ford-class carrier to deploy to the Indo-Pacific and will field the F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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