The Atlantic Fleet's most fearsome cruiser sailed off Monday on an "epic," around-the-world cruise after a long workup cycle.
The ship's top enlisted sailor told Navy Times Monday that the ship is amped to get underway for the nine-month deployment.
The ship's commanding officer, Capt. Scott Robertson, summed up the deployment in one word: "epic."
"The crew is motivated," the CMC told Navy Times in November, amid their workups. "It's easy to motivate sailors for what we're doing. I do it all the time, especially with these new check-ins and sailors who have never been to sea. I give them their command ball cap, sit them down and say, 'Shipmate, we're taking this ship around the earth. We're getting underway, we're circumnavigating the earth together.' And they smile."
A deadly ship
It's not just the itinerary that makes the Normandy's cruise special. The ship has been given hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades to its combat system. It is one of four ships thus far to be outfitted with the state-of-the art AEGIS Baseline 9, and the first to deploy.
The new technology, including the Navy Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system and the Cooperative Engagement Capability, allows the ship to fire on a target without having to detect the threat — be it missile or enemy aircraft — on one of its sensors. In practice, that means a surveillance aircraft like the E-2D or the F-35 could detect a threat and relay targeting information, and Normandy could shoot it.
"In terms of air defense, NIFC-CA enables the strike group to have much longer-range warning of air threats, which could then be engaged more than 100 [nautical miles] away at the limit of SM-6 and extended range SM-2 interceptors or with defensive counter air aircraft from the carrier," Clark, a retired commander, said in an email.
"Baseline 9 enables surface combatants to conduct ballistic missile defense and air and cruise missile defense at the same time," Clark said. "Older versions of Aegis didn't support looking up and out at the same time."
A green crew
"We've never had a day when I can say, 'Today, ship, we get to focus on INSURV,'" Robertson said in November. "It's never been like that because there are always competing requirements, whether it's [Afloat Training Group] certification or its Baseline 9 validation or strike group deployment preparations, it's been a lot to juggle."
Normandy aced its INSURV inspection, scoring an 81 overall, which is on par with the surface fleet's average and impressive for a 25-year-old ship.
"At one of my first all-hands calls," Robertson said, "the master chief alerted me, he said, 'Captain, you have a pretty inexperienced crew here.' So I asked the crew, 'By show of hands, how many of you have never deployed before.' Over half the crew raised their hands.
"So I said, 'For this upcoming group sail in December, three weeks, for how many of you will this be the longest you've been underway?' I still got a quarter of them to raise their hands."
Staff writer Lance M. Bacon contributed to this report.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.