NORFOLK, Va. — Next week, the Navy’s largest and most expensive warship is scheduled to embark on its first deployment to train with NATO countries in the Atlantic.
After years of delays, the U.S. Navy’s most advanced aircraft carrier is ready to leave Naval Station Norfolk and join ships from France, Germany and Sweden for various exercises, according to The Associated Press.
According to the Navy Times, during its “service-retained deployment,” the Ford will conduct several tasks such as air defense exercises, long-range maritime strikes and anti-submarine warfare exercises, as well as naval integration, according to 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Daniel Dwyer.
“This will be a service-retained deployment, providing the Ford Strike Group Commander a chance to test the carrier’s air operability prior to embarking on its first global force management deployment next year,” Dwyer told the Navy Times.
The $13.3 billion aircraft carrier is the U.S.’s most expensive warship in history. The ship is the lead ship of the newest class of aircraft carrier, referred to as Gerald R. Ford-class, since the Nimitz class was introduced over 40 years ago.
The AP reported that advances in technology allow the carrier to carry a wider variety of planes and operate with several hundred fewer sailors. Flying missions will be increased by a third by utilizing a faster electromagnetic catapult system for launching aircraft.
Some of the advanced technology used on the Ford ultimately led to delays. Problems included issues with the catapult system and the weapons elevators that bring munitions to the flight deck.
A Congressional Research Service report obtained by the AP stated that the Navy had “struggled to meet promises it repeatedly made” to defense oversight committees to complete, test and certify the weapons elevators. The Navy said the ship’s 11th and final weapons elevator was certified in December.
Dwyer addressed the catapult issue on a call with reporters on Monday, saying that the Ford “has already successfully conducted over 10,000 catapults and carrier landings.”
Next week’s deployment comes seven months after Russia invaded Ukraine. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to send more troops into battle and potentially use nuclear weapons to ward off Ukraine’s attempt to reclaim control of Moscow-occupied areas.
Bradley Martin, a senior policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, told the AP that next week’s exercises would showcase American military capabilities and support for NATO. Concerns about Russia are part of the mission’s broader calculus.
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