Aircraft Carrier USS Gerald R. Ford Departs Norfolk for Worldwide Deployment 

May 2, 2023 6:48 PM
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) transits the Atlantic Ocean on March 19, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon for its first global deployment, USNI News has learned.

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

The deployment of the Ford CSG will operationalize a new series of technologies aboard the carrier, commander Capt. Rick Burgess said in a statement.

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

The 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 consistent carrier presence in the Mediterranean Sea, which the U.S. 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.

The deployment of Ford, its escorts and the soon-to-be 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. USNI News visited Ford during the month-long COMPTUEX that certified the strike group for national tasking.

Staff and units of CSG 12, CVW 8, and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 compose the Gerald R. Ford CSG.

Four ships – guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) and guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS McFaul (DDG-74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) – will escort Ford. Those ships will depart from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., or Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

Many of the escorts and squadrons of the Ford CSG were underway with the carrier during an operational training cruise late last year. The CSG integrated with NATO partners in Exercise Silent Wolverine as part of the cruise.

Carrier Strike Group 12 


  • USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), homeported at Norfolk, Virginia

Carrier Air Wing 8

Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW 8), stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., will embark aboard Ford for the deployment and includes a total of nine squadrons.

  • The “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana
  • The “Blacklions” of VFA 213 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana
  • The “Golden Warriors” of VFA 87 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana
  • The “Tomcatters” of VFA 31 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana
  • The “Gray Wolves” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142 – EA-18G – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
  • The “Bear Aces” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 124 – E-2D – from Naval Air Station Norfolk
  • The “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 – C-2A – from Naval Air Station Norfolk
  • The “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 – MH-60R – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville
  • The “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 – MH-60S – from Naval Air Station Norfolk


  • USS Normandy (CG-60), homeported at Norfolk, Va.

Destroyer Squadron 2

  • USS Ramage (DDG-61), homeported at Norfolk, Va.
  • USS McFaul (DDG-74), homeported at Norfolk, Va.
  • USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), homeported at Mayport, Fla.
Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa is a freelance defense journalist based in Washington, D.C.

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