USS Gerald R Ford sets sail on first deployment

The US Navy's latest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) departed from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, for its first-ever deployment.

As flagship of the Gerald R Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG), the 97,000-ton vessel has departed Norfolk to perform operations and training exercises alongside NATO partners in the Atlantic Ocean.

The nuclear powered carrier will have CVW-8 deployed onboard, including multiple Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons onboard, as well as airborne early warning, electronic warfare and maritime strike units.
The nuclear powered carrier will have CVW-8 deployed onboard, including multiple Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons onboard, as well as airborne early warning, electronic warfare and maritime strike units. US Navy

Multiple commands and units are taking part in the deployment, including Carrier Strike Group 12 (CSG-12). For the duration of this initial deployment, Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) will be embarked onboard and will conduct operations from the USS Gerald R Ford. The wing comprises four Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet-equipped fighter units - including Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213) 'Black Lions'; VFA-31 'Tomcats'; VFA-37 'Ragin' Bulls' and VFA-87 'Golden Warriors' - with tactical electronic warfare capabilities provided by EA-18G Growlers operated by Electronic Attack Squadron 142 (VAQ-142) 'Gray Wolves'. Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) coverage will be provided by Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes assigned to Airborne Command and Control Squadron 124 (VAW-124) 'Bear Aces'.

The rotary wing units embarked on USS Gerald R Ford as part of CVW-8 include Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 (HSM-70) 'Spartans', operating the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9 (HSC-9) 'Tridents', which operates the MH-60S Knighthawk. Logistical support for the duration of this deployment will be provided by Grumman C-2A Greyhound carrier-onboard-delivery (COD) aircraft assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 (VRC-40) 'Rawhides'.

USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) departs Naval Station Norfolk on its first deployment, October 4 2022. The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) is deployed in the Atlantic Ocean,
USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) departs Naval Station Norfolk on its first deployment, October 4 2022. The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) is deployed in the Atlantic Ocean, US NAVY

Capt Daryl Trent, commander of CVW-8, said: “It is an exciting time to lead the aviators of Carrier Air Wing 8 as we embark on Ford’s first deployment. It is also fitting that when USS Nimitz [CVN-68] deployed for the first time in 1976, it was CVW-8 who was embarked. Now, in 2022, CVW-8 is again the first air wing to embark on this newest class of aircraft carriers.”

Whilst deployed, the GRFCSG will participate in multiple long-range maritime strike, air defence, anti-subsurface warfare and distributed maritime training events alongside allied forces from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the US.

As the US Navy's newest aircraft carrier departed Naval Station Norfolk, Rear Adm Greg Huffman - commander of CSG-12 - said: “This deployment is an opportunity to further advance the operational capabilities of the Ford and demonstrate the advantages that Ford and Carrier Air Wing 8 bring to the future of naval aviation, to the region and to our allies and partners.

“Now more than ever, it is increasingly important for the US Navy to reinforce our relationships with our allies and partners as we contribute to promote a peaceful, stable, and conflict-free Atlantic region.