NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — She is the largest aircraft carrier in the world, packed with the latest technology. USS Gerald R. Ford is getting ready for a special deployment Monday, October 3 with ships from eight other nations.

After persistent problems with never-before-seen technology, the commanding officer of Gerald R. Ford says it is fully operational. Nearly 5,000 crew and aviators will take part in its most wide-ranging exercises so far.

Literally in a class by itself, Gerald R Ford will sail with navies from Canada and seven European nations.

The armada will include 17 ships, one submarine and 60 Navy aircraft.

“[This will enable] the Ford to test out its capabilities and exercise with allies and partners prior to its first global force management deployment planned for next year,” said VADM Dan Dwyer, commander of the Second Fleet.

Ford’s commanding officer says it will conduct aircraft operations and air defense exercises, including its cutting edge Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Advanced Arresting Gear, and new weapons elevators.
Problems with those technologies in early trials caused delays and controversy. The price tag for the world’s largest warship went beyond $15 billion in overall construction and research & development.

But the CO says it’s all systems go.

“All three of those technologies are fully certified for unlimited use. We’re no longer in the testing world here,” said CAPT Paul Lanzalotta.

The Navy estimates the launch system will save money in maintenance costs over the long haul. Ford’s life expectancy is about 50 years. The system also allows for more frequent launch operations.

Lanzalotta thanked the families of his crew for their support because Ford has been at sea a lot lately.
But he says this deployment will be different and will expand Ford’s footprint further out to sea.

“We’re gonna use the entire Atlantic as our playpen. The Atlantic Ocean is of new strategic importance,” he said. “We’re not just gonna stay tethered to Norfolk. The other big difference is we’re gonna be sailing with our allies. We’ve never done that before.”

Ford will sail with participating nations Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.