The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford departed Norfolk, Virginia, Tuesday to conduct its inaugural deployment in the Atlantic.

The carrier and its strike group, including almost all of Carrier Air Wing 8, are partaking in a “service-retained deployment” to provide the crew an opportunity to test its air operability, in preparation for a more routine deployment in 2023, Navy leaders said.

“This deployment is an opportunity to further advance the operational capabilities of the Ford and demonstrate the advantages that Ford and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 bring to the future of naval aviation, to the region and to our allies and partners,” Rear Adm. Greg Huffman, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12, said in a Navy news release.

“Now more than ever, it is increasingly important for the United States Navy to reinforce our relationships with our allies and partners as we contribute to promote a peaceful, stable, and conflict-free Atlantic region,” Huffman said.

Those joining the Ford at various points during its journey will be roughly 9,000 personnel, 20 ships and 60 aircraft from nine different countries, including Canada, Denmark, France and Germany.

“We want interoperability, we want interchangeability with our partners,” Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer, said in the release. “Our NATO partners that are sailing with us — we’re going to work with them every day, every night. That’s what it means to operate on the high seas. Air defense exercises; long-range maritime strike. We’re going to be doing pretty much every mission set that’s in the portfolio for naval aviation, and we’re excited about that.”

Second Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Daniel Dwyer told reporters last month the service-retained deployment means that the strike group will operate under the authority of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday. A carrier strike group typically falls under the authority of the geographic combatant commander during a global force management deployment.

The carrier’s first deployment was originally slated for 2018, but a series of technical problems, equipment malfunctions and delays integrating at least 23 new technologies into the carrier’s design forced the Navy to postpone.

Post-delivery trials wrapped up in May 2021, and the ship completed three shock trials that summer. A carrier last conducted underwater shock testing in 1987 with the Theodore Roosevelt.

Carrier Strike Group 12 includes destroyers Ramage, McFaul and Thomas Hudner, the cruiser Normandy, the replenishment oiler Joshua Humphreys, dry cargo ship Robert E. Peary and U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hamilton.

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