Though the crew of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) had to spend Thanksgiving Day at sea, they had much to be thankful for on Saturday as the first-in-class super carrier – the U.S. Navy’s largest and most powerful warship ever – returned to her homeport at Naval Station Norfolk.
The flattop had successfully completed her inaugural deployment to the U.S. 2nd Fleet and 6th Fleet.
USS Gerald R. Ford Makes History
During the scheduled deployment, CVN 78 operated with eight NATO Allies and partners to strengthen interoperability and interchangeability, conducting a range of maritime operations and exercises.
She traveled more than 9,275 nautical miles with the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, completed more than 1,250 sorties, expended 78.3 tons of ordnance, and completed 13 underway replenishments.
USS Gerald R. Ford made her first international port visit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and her first European port visit in Portsmouth, England. For the sailors, those port visits offered a long-awaited opportunity to explore and learn from different cultures.
While operating in the Atlantic, the supercarrier hosted 215 distinguished visitors, 175 foreign dignitaries, 46 NATO flag officers and senior enlisted leaders, and more than 60 U.S. and international reporters.
“This deployment brought together an incredible group of Allies and partners with one single focus – to contribute to a peaceful, stable, and conflict-free Atlantic region through our combined naval power,” said Vice Adm. Dan Dwyer, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet and Joint Force Command Norfolk.
“Opportunities to interoperate and integrate make our nations, our navies, and the NATO Alliance stronger.”
Voyage of Discovery
After years of delays, the warship finally left from Norfolk, Virginia, on Oct. 4, beginning her first deployment, which included a port-of-call visit to our neighbor to the north.
After making her first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the carrier arrived in Portsmouth. Due to the size of the supercarrier – which is 1,100 feet long, compared to the 918 feet of the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth – it was decided CVN-78 would anchor in Stokes Bay, off the coast of the town of Gosport, rather than pulling up to the pier in Portsmouth.
During the two-month deployment, the Carrier Group also participated in Exercise Silent Wolverine, demonstrating high-end naval warfare and integrated NATO interoperability in the maritime approaches to Europe.
Silent Wolverine allowed the carrier to train and test capabilities while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to seamless integration with allies and partners.
“We sailed with our Allies and partners and trained together, tirelessly, day and night, and we are stronger for it,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, the Gerald R. Ford‘s commanding officer. “Through integrated and combined operations such as live and inert ordnance expenditure by Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and air defense, we set the stage for operating with Ford-class technologies in a deployed environment.”
The U.S. commands and units that participated in the deployment include CSG 12, CVW 8, Destroyer Squadron 2, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Ramage (DDG 61), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
Nine U.S. aircraft squadrons embarked on the Gerald R, Ford for this deployment.
The Gerald R. Ford was one of five allied aircraft carriers to operate together this month in the U.S. 6th Fleet in an effort to foster interoperability among NATO allies.