For the second time in less than three months, an aircraft carrier left Norfolk for training and didn’t turn back.
On Thursday, the Navy announced — with little fanfare — that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group had deployed.
The carrier left its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk in mid-January for its month-long integrated predeployment certification training known as the Composite Unit Training Exercise — COMPTUEX — in the Atlantic Ocean and didn’t return, Navy 2nd Fleet spokesperson Lt. Marycate Walsh told Navy Times.
“The Sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the strike group’s commander, said in a prepared statement.
The resurrected fleet reached its full operational status on New Year’s Eve.
Ike’s departure means a second Norfolk-based aircraft carrier is now deployed.
On Dec. 1, the Navy announced, also with little fanfare, that the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman left following an underway. Truman had been sidelined for weeks of repairs to fix an electrical issue that pushed the deployment of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to 10 months.
Truman is operating in the North Arabian Sea.
Ike entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. in August 2017 for what was supposed to be six months of work.
The carrier’s “timeline for departure was not reflective of any specific operation, but instead in demonstration of the inherent agility of our naval forces,” Walsh said. She declined to say where the strike group was headed.
“We can’t talk about where it’s going,” Walsh said. “We can’t talk about future operations.”
Despite lofty promises of stability, the Navy's fleet deployment plan is a shambles.
During its predeployment workups, Ike trained with the French anti-submarine frigate Normandie, Royal Danish Navy frigate Iver Huitfeldt and the Canadian Halifax-class frigate Ville de Quebec, according to the Navy.
Ike is accompanied by guided-missile cruisers San Jacinto and Vella Gulf and guided-missile destroyers Stout, James E. Williams and Truxtun.
The embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 includes the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron 32, the Gunslingers of VFA-105, the Rampagers of VFA-83 and the Wildcats of VFA-131, plus the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123, the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron 130, the Dusty Dogs of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7 and the Swamp Foxes of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74.
By not returning to Norfolk before its cruise, the carrier strike group avoids a spell of bad weather.
With a winter storm bearing down on Hampton Roads, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic — Rear Adm. Charles W. Rock — authorized a two-hour delay Friday for all non-essential personnel who work at Naval Air Station Oceana, Dam Neck Annex, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Portsmouth Annex, Lafayette River Annex, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham Annex.
All personnel assigned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads-Northwest Annex are urged to contact their chain of command for reporting requirements, according to an email sent to Navy Times by Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
Officials said that some Navy-operated Child Development Centers and Children and Youth Centers will open Friday morning for essential personnel but urged them to contact the care providers to confirm the hours of operation.