NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The USS Gerald R. Ford Strike Group is at sea undergoing a battery of testing to earn its Composite Unit Training Exercise certification.
The COMPTUEX is meant to forge a carrier strike group into a cohesive fighting unit. 10 On Your Side joined the crew of the USS Gerald R. Ford Aircraft Carrier as it departed Naval Station Norfolk March 2.
The Navy has long eyed this stage of certification for the Ford, which was first commissioned in July 2017.
First in its class, the carrier boasts 27 new technologies, the integration of which has caused numerous delays in the Ford’s progression towards being deemed combat-ready.
“Our post-delivery testing and trials period—that’s a lot of effort and a lot of investment by the United States Navy to ensure that the systems work at the right level and will continue to work in an adversarial environment,” said Ford Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Lanzilotta.
The strike group’s commander, Rear Admiral Gregory Huffman, oversees the group’s operations from the Ford.
“I think taking the first-in-class out for the very first time is part of history. I think the crew here is very excited to be a part of this,” Huffman said Friday. “Every sailor I’ve talked to recognized this is the first of, and they are very part of history and they are part of history making this first maiden deployment.”
For Virginia Beach native and logistics specials William Swan, the voyage is not only a chance to be a part of Naval history, but the fulfillment of a childhood dream and a family dream.
“Driving across the HRBT, seeing all the ships and stuff like that, and now I’m actually in the Navy seeing what it’s like being in the Navy. Its been a great time,” Swan said. His grandfather was in the Navy, and growing up in the area, he’s followed the progression of the carrier he’ll now call home. “I’ve seen this thing go from the shipyard ’til now, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The $13.3 billion carrier boasts some of the military’s most cutting-edge technologies. The EMALS, or electromagnetic aircraft launch system, replaces the steam-propelled systems features on Nimitz-class carriers.
The Dual Band Radar system renders a 360-degree mapping of the seascape. A plasma waste disposal system substantially reduces the crew’s environmental footprint, converting tens of thousands of pounds in garbage to a mere fraction of that weight in ocean-friendly sentiment. There are 11 advanced weapons elevators on board, which carry missiles and ammunition from the carrier bay to the flight deck.