NORFOLK, Va. — It’s no April Fools’ Day joke.
The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln’s globetrotting tour kicks off on April 1, according to a Wednesday statement issued by U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
Led by Rear Adm. John Wade, the five warships and nine aviation squadrons of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group are slated to depart Norfolk that morning, with the flattop eventually ending up at its new homeport, California’s Naval Air Station North Island.
April 1, of course, is also the date the grade of Chief Petty Office was established in 1893.
Regardless of the significance of April 1 in the Navy or across the wider public, it will mark Lincoln’s first deployment in seven years.
The carrier arrived in Norfolk on Aug. 7, 2012, and began a four-year midlife refueling and overhaul at the Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding complex six months later.
The Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group is now at sea, proving the newly refit aircraft carrier and her strike group are ready for a deployment that will end later this year in San Diego.
The carrier rejoined the fleet in May of 2017 and the crew spent nearly two years training up for the tour.
The route to California remains secret, however, because of the Pentagon’s new Dynamic Force Employment plan, which is designed to keep potential foes guessing about when units will show up in their region.
The guided-missile escorts shepherding the carrier out of Norfolk will include the cruiser Leyte Gulf and destroyers Bainbridge, Mason and Nitze.
One of the strike group’s designated destroyers, the Gonzalez, left Norfolk on March 15 on what officials call an independent, ballistic missile defense deployment, but it could rejoin strike group.
The Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez trained with the strike group before and during its Composite Unit Training Exercise in January and February.
That warship is expected to rejoin Lincoln on the other side of the Atlantic.
The cruiser kept going and returned to Norfolk through the Panama Canal.
When Lincoln departs Virginia it will take an important piece of carrier history with it.
During Lincoln’s Newport News overhaul, the flattop was tied up near the world’s first nuclear-powered carrier, Enterprise.
Decommissioned after more than a half-century of service to the Navy, the Big E was being slowly dismantled.
But in 2014, workers transferred one of Enterprise’s massive anchors to Lincoln, sparing it from the scrapyard and preserving a piece of the legendary flattop’s legacy for today’s fleet.