The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, recently made its first international port visit, docking at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“We have been operating alongside our Allies and partners on the high seas, training our interoperability and interchangeability,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, the commanding officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford, in a U.S. Navy statement covering the deployment.
“Visiting Halifax gives us a chance to build even stronger relationships with our teammates, strengthening our partnership, and allows our Sailors to explore the rich culture and welcoming people of Canada.”
Previously, the Ford “deployed from Norfolk, Virginia, Oct. 4, on its first deployment and has been conducting multinational maritime exercises and operations in the Atlantic Ocean with NATO Allies Canada, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, and Germany.”
Though the USS Gerald R. Ford’s recent port visit marks a significant milestone for the world’s newest, largest, and most advanced aircraft carrier, the journey to deployment was marked by several developmental issues. These problems cast doubt on the carrier’s ability to survive at sea and effectively and reliably launch aircraft from the sea and into the air.
As the lead ship of the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class supercarriers, the Gerald R. Ford pioneers several technologies designed to increase the carrier’s sortie rate and get more aircraft off the flight deck and into the air quicker.
One of these technologies is the carrier’s aircraft launch system, an electromagnetic catapult that replaces the legacy steam-powered catapults the U.S. Navy has previously relied on to launch aircraft. The electromagnetic launch systems take advantage of the carrier’s massive electrical power output, made possible by high-efficiency nuclear generators, but experienced teething issues during the carrier’s development.
Another issue was the carrier’s internal elevators, massive lifts that ferry aircraft and ammunition to the carrier’s deck from the bowels of the ship. The internal elevators also suffered from reliability issues relying on the ship’s electrical output.
Though the U.S. Navy is adamant that the class’ teething problems have since been rectified and will not be an issue for subsequent ships, it is unclear to what extent this is the case or how this will affect the Ford class in terms of production delay or costs.
“After this port visit,” the U.S. Navy statement explained, “the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group will continue its deployment in the Atlantic Ocean, conducting training and operations alongside NATO Allies and partners to enhance integration for future operations and demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s commitment to a peaceful, stable and conflict-free Atlantic region.”
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.
Image: Flickr/U.S. Navy.