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USS Gerald R .Ford to go on first deployment next week after yearslong delay

The lead ship in the Navy's newest and most advanced class of aircraft carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford will depart on its first operational deployment next week, after years of delays.

Five years after it was commissioned into service, the Ford, which cost over $13 billion, will soon get underway on a short deployment in the Atlantic. 

During the deployment, the carrier will exercise with allies across the Atlantic, allowing the Navy to further understand the new technologies the Ford incorporates, Vice Adm. Daniel Dwyer, the commander of the 2nd Fleet, told reporters on a call earlier this week. 

The Ford is the first carrier to use an electromagnetic launch system (EMALS) to launch aircraft instead of a traditional steam-powered catapult. The new system enables the Navy to substantially increase the number of aircraft — by 25% — that can be launched on any given day. 

FILE: USS Gerald Ford, Aug. 20, 2021, departing Naval Station Norfolk, en route Newport News Shipyard. Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Seelbach, via DVIDS

Work on the carrier's advanced electromagnetic weapons elevators used to move missiles and bombs to the flight deck was plagued by technical problems for years before it was finally completed in December 2021.

Dwyer said the carrier has dozens of new technologies and the exercises on this deployment will help the Navy "truly understand the new capabilities that this first-in-class carrier brings with it."  

The short deployment, according to Dwyer, will include thousands of personnel from nine nations, 17 ships, one submarine, and 60 U.S. Navy aircraft. 

This deployment is a "service retained deployment" which means the carrier remains under the authority of the chief of Naval Operations instead of under geographic combatant commanders.  

Dwyer said the concept of a "service retained deployment" is not new, and previous first-in-class carriers USS Nimitz and USS Enterprise took similar opportunities to exercise with allies and test out capabilities before embarking on a global force management deployment. The Ford is expected to go on a longer deployment under that structure next year. 

The carrier was procured with an estimated cost of $13 billion during the Bush administration, commissioned in 2017 under the Trump administration, and will soon embark on a deployment during the Biden administration. 

The Ford is the lead carrier in the Navy's Ford class of aircraft carriers, and the next carrier in its class, the USS John F. Kennedy is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2024.  

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