USS Gerald R. Ford leaves on 1st warfighting deployment

USS Gerald R. Ford leaves on 1st warfighting deployment

The USS Gerald R. Ford and the strike group bearing its name departed Tuesday afternoon from Naval Station Norfolk on the carrier’s first warfighting deployment.

In early April, the Ford completed a monthlong training exercise off the East Coast, making it a certified combat-deployable warship. The Navy wasted no time deploying its newest and most technologically advanced aircraft carrier. Dozens of families gathered at Naval Station Norfolk as the Ford pushed off from Pier 11.

The family of 19-year-old sailor Malachi Williams waited anxiously by the pier for the departure.

”It’s bittersweet, but we are excited for him,” said Aisha Williams, Malachi’s mother. Coming from an Air Force and Navy household, the Williams said they are proud of their son.

”He could be out there doing anything with his life, but he chose to defend our country,” Aisha said.

“The sailors of Gerald R. Ford are ready and able to perform because of the strenuous training they have put in to get this ship ready to deploy and also, in large part, because of the support of their families and friends,” said Capt. Rick Burgess, Ford’s commanding officer. “This ship and crew are actively reshaping the face of our Navy’s capabilities and strengthening the future of naval aviation.”

The 1,106-foot carrier’s new electromagnetic-powered aircraft launch system (EMALS) and the advanced arresting gear are two of the much-touted technologies unique to Ford-class carriers. EMALS uses stored kinetic energy and solid-state electrical power conversion to propel an aircraft along a track and off the carrier, while the arresting gear is a turbo-electric system designed for more controlled deceleration of aircraft.

The technology, the Navy said, means the air-wing can get into the air — and return to the battle after rearming and refueling — faster than with the traditional steam-and-hydraulics systems that have been the mainstay for decades.

In total, the strike group deployed with more than 6,000 sailors across all platforms.

The strike group includes Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 staff, Gerald R. Ford, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 staff and units, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and an information warfare commander.

The ships of DESRON 2 are the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage, USS McFaul and USS Thomas Hudner, which are scheduled to depart their homeports of Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Station Mayport, respectively, Tuesday.

The squadrons of CVW-8 embarked aboard Gerald R. Ford are the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9, the “Bear Aces” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 124, the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 located in Norfolk.

The “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, all of Virginia Beach, will deploy with the airwing, as well as the “Gray Wolves” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142 located in Whidbey Island, Wash., and the “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 located in Mayport, Florida.

Caitlyn Burchett,