Sonar Technician (Surface) Seaman Bryan Evans, right, and Fire Controlman (AEGIS) 3rd Class Christopher Reysno raise the national ensign during colors on board the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser Normandy on Sept. 28, 2022. Normandy was supposed to join the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at sea on Oct. 3, but a nor'easter delayed their exit into the Atlantic Ocean. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Malachi Lakey.
After waiting five years to deploy, what’s another morning in Virginia?
Slated to push off from its pier Monday, Oct. 3, on its maiden cruise, the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford is instead bottled up in Norfolk because of a nor’easter spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Ian.
But US Coast Guard officials in Baltimore told Coffee or Die Magazine Ford and its guided-missile escorts — the cruiser Normandy and destroyers Ramage, McFaul, and Thomas Hudner — could depart as soon as 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
That’s when the captain of the Port of Virginia in Portsmouth is expected to lift modified port condition Zulu, meaning gale force winds will have abated enough for the warships to head to sea.
But it’ll be up to the US Navy’s 2nd Fleet in Norfolk to greenlight exactly when the carrier strike group will begin its transit to the North Atlantic to participate in upcoming war games with European forces.
An E2-D Hawkeye from the “Greyhawks” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron 120 performs startup procedures on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford on Sept. 22, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Manvir Gill.
“We are keeping a close eye on the weather and plan to get Ford underway in the next few days when conditions are favorable,” said 2nd Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Lara Bollinger.
The lead ship in its class of high-tech carriers, the $13.3 billion Ford has been plagued with problems, including flaws in its propulsion and electrical systems; dual-band radar that isn’t always reliable; gremlins spooking its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear; and missile and bomb elevators that weren't completed, tested, and certified until Dec. 22, 2021, nine months before the warship was set to sail to the North Atlantic.
But the weather isn't something the Navy can control. Bollinger told Coffee or Die Navy officials made the call Sunday to delay Ford’s exit.
“We are committed to participating in planned events with our allies and partners in the North Atlantic, and we are closely monitoring schedule impacts. We will provide more updates as they become available,” she said.
The exercises are expected to include more than 9,000 personnel, 20 warships, and 60 aircraft from the US and eight nations — Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.
US Coast Guard cutter Hamilton is escorted by the smaller cutter William Flores off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida, on Nov. 11, 2014. Hamilton is the fourth Legend-class national security cutter designed to replace the 378-foot high endurance cutters. US Coast Guard photo.
A US Coast Guard cutter, the Legend-class Hamilton, will serve as one of the flattop’s escorts, too. And they’ll be supplied by a pair of Military Sealift Command vessels, the replenishment oiler Joshua Humphreys and the dry cargo ship Robert E. Peary.
In the meantime, the National Hurricane Center in Miami continues to monitor a pair of brewing tropical storms.
An elongated area of low pressure appears to be forming a tropical depression east of the Windward Islands, with a westward path pointing toward the Lesser Antilles.
A similar disorganized swirl of showers and thunderstorms is developing southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands, which is likely to morph into a tropical depression by Wednesday. Forecasters suspect it will veer northwestward at the end of the week as it tracks over the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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