Since former President Donald Trump formally commissioned the ship on July 22, 2017, Ford’s crew has steadfastly worked toward harnessing the ship’s significant technological advancements to solidify her place as a proven warfighting platform. Ship’s Force has increased proficiency in aircraft launch and recovery, improved performance in combat systems interoperability, and most recently—with the second explosive event of FSST on July 16, 2021—continued testing to verify that the ship’s systems will perform as designed and withstand the harsh conditions it might encounter in battle.
Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer, said this year’s commissioning anniversary marks a distinctive phase in Ford’s history, as her technological innovations have given way to a current surge of operational prowess. He noted how the ship’s revolutionary capabilities, such as the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), offer extraordinary technical benefits to the crew and to Fleet commanders.
“This ship and her crew showcase a revolutionary leap forward in capability,” said Lanzilotta. “Ford was designed with many new and advanced technologies, and throughout post-delivery test and trials and full-ship shock trials we have demonstrated that these systems are awesome. Our success with EMALS and AAG, efficiently launching and recovering 8,157 aircraft to-date, proves not only the sophistication of this revolutionary equipment, but also the ability to conduct flight operations with fewer personnel. We also expect less stress on the aircraft we send on mission to do our nation's work. All this will improve the effectiveness of naval aviation and make our embarked air wing even more lethal.”
Since Independent Steaming Event (ISE) 11 in July 2020, Ford qualified 243 student naval aviators and fleet replacement squadron pilots to generate Fleet readiness, completed multiple sea-based developmental testing evolutions, set the baseline for FORD-class maneuvering and tactical capabilities during acoustic and special performance trials, and made a tremendous leap forward in her operational timeline with integrated Carrier Strike Group (CSG) operations.
Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, commander, CSG-12, remarked on the positive implications of Ford’s many accomplishments on the ship’s commissioning anniversary. He believes the ship’s success in underway operations has paved a clear path forward for continued success for the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group.
"History has shown us that naval aviation has become the decisive element at the most critical times of a battle," said Huffman. "With Ford's enhanced command and control capabilities, strike group operations will be more efficient as we flatten the battlespace among warfare commanders. I am confident the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group will provide a vital display of strategic projection when deployed."
Lanzilotta added that the knowledge gained during the first two explosive events of FSST has cemented his confidence in Ford’s ability to operate in all circumstances while continuing to execute the mission at hand.
“We’ve gained a deeper understanding of our ship’s robust capabilities by enduring these 40,000-pound blasts,” said Lanzilotta. “This insight promises even more success in all aspects of our warfighting posture. As we celebrate the four year anniversary of our ship’s commissioning, we deeply appreciate the efforts by the generations of Sailors who got the ship this far.”
With the continued integration of CSG-12 approaching, Huffman said the groundwork has been laid out for the upcoming cycle of work-ups, and he expects a smooth, prosperous transition back to seafaring operations.
"Based on Ford's performance during the independent steaming events and Full Ship Shock Trials, we'll be entering the integration period of the strike group and air wing with the utmost confidence in ship's force," said Huffman. "This year's commissioning anniversary can be celebrated with the knowledge of how far the ship has come and with certainty in future greatness. The approaching maiden deployment will show the world that Ford is truly a leading-edge platform, whose operating capabilities have been sharpened with the expertise and experience of her outstanding crewmembers."
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