New American aircraft carrier USS Ford with Dutch frigates for Europe

The brand new American aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will arrive in Europe for the first time in mid-November. The largest naval vessel ever built, along with a number of allies and partners from the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG), will anchor in Stokes Bay near Portsmouth, various defense media reported. Also the Dutch frigates Zr.Ms. Van Amstel and Zr.Ms. Zeven Provincin is part of the group.

USS Gerald R. Ford with SNS Alvaro de Bazan, FGS Hessen and USS Normandy in the background. The ford is 337 meters long, twelve meters deep and a maximum of 78 meters wide. It has a displacement of over 100,000 tons and a maximum speed of more than 30 knots. There is room for more than 75 aircraft. (Photo: US Navy)

On October 4, the USS Gerald R. Ford departed from its home port of Norfolk, Virginia on its maiden international voyage. On October 28, the first foreign port of call was Halifax in Canada.
The Dutch ships, together with the Danish frigate Peter Willemoes, had sailed into New York a week earlier for an undoubtedly impressive port visit for the crew. These ships had departed from Den Helder on 9 October.

At the beginning of this week the ships departed from Halifax. Among the international company were the Spanish frigate Alvaro de Bazan (class of the same name), the Danish frigate Peter Willemoes (Iver Huitfeldt class) and the German frigate Hessen (Sachsen class), the Dutch frigates and of course Ford. The Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (Halifax class) also joined the squadron. also consists of US Navy vessels.

The US ships that are part of the GRFCSG are the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage and USS McFaul. Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Normandy, Lewis and Clark-class transport USNS Robert E. Peary and Henry J Kaiser-class tanker USNS Joshua Humphreys. USNS John Lenthall has also been spotted, possibly this ship having taken the place of one of the other tankers.

The departure from Canada marked not only Ford’s first overseas port call, but also the group’s weeks in North American waters.

Peter Willemoes
The Danish frigate KDM Peter Willemoes approaches New York. Thanks to the Dutch radars, the Danish frigates are very similar to the Dutch LCFs. (Photo: Defense)

Exercises with NATO partners
This trip is dedicated to training with allies in air defense, anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, the US Navy announced.

These exercises involve 9,000 people from nine different countries, including 4,700 on board the Ford. In total there are twenty ships and sixty planes in the party.

USS Gerald R. Ford
Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic. (Photo: US Navy)

USS Gerald R. Ford
Sr.Ms. Van Amstel with FGS Hessen and Ford in the background. (Photo: US Navy)

First trip to Canada and on the way to Europe
USS Commander Gerald R. Ford Paul Lanzilotta was satisfied with the progress of the maiden voyage and the exercises so far, he said in a message from the US Navy: “We have been able to exercise at sea with our allies and partners and that for the benefit of interoperability and interchangeability. The visit to Halifax gave us the opportunity to build an even stronger relationship with our teammates and thus strengthen our partnership.”

USS Gerald R. Ford is expected to be accompanied by at least USS Ramage, USS McFaul, USS Thomas Hudner and USS Normandy on their trip to Britain. It is unlikely that Ford will also visit the Netherlands, as nuclear-powered ships do not normally come here. France is more likely to be the second European country to receive the aircraft carrier.

The billion project
As noted, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most expensive naval vessel ever built. Production costs amounted to $13 billion, and it costs a whopping $7 million a day to operate the ship.

Construction of the ship started in 2005 and the keel was laid in 2009. In 2017, the ship was commissioned by then-President Donald Trump, but many technical problems quickly emerged. After no fewer than 19,000 technical adjustments, the aircraft carrier is now finally ready to be fully operational.

Gerald R. Ford is the first ship of the Ford class. The ship is named after former US President Gerald Ford. It is expected that a further nine ships will follow in the class, which together will replace the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Powerful nuclear reactors on board
The USS Gerald R. Ford is powered by two new types of nuclear reactors that deliver three times the energy of the Nimitz-class reactors. Nuclear ships like the Ford are designed to be self-sufficient. With these reactors, the ship can sail for around 20 years without stopping.

In addition, the planes on the ship are now launched with electromagnetic catapults instead of the usual pumping of steam through the turbines. This has the advantage that no more space is wasted on a separate steam boiler and that the outlet is more controlled.

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