Newly Built Carrier Provides Medevac During Sea Trials
On April 11, the first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford provided a medevac for a crewmember of the landing ship USS Oak Hill, who required urgent medical care.
At 1130 hours local time, the Ford received a request from the Oak Hill for a consultation with the carrier's chief medical officer, Capt. Kimberly Toone. Toone determined that the patient needed evacuation, and the relevant Navy commanders made the decision to fly the sailor to Navy Medical Center Portsmouth. The Ford – which on its first-ever sea trials – dispatched an MH-60 helicopter piloted by Lt. Dallas Rhodes and Lt. j.g. Matthew Grinsteinner to provide a medevac.
"We got the word, coordinated the necessary permissions, and were off-deck shortly thereafter," said Cmdr. Jody Smotherman, Ford's combat direction center officer, who helped coordinate the operation.
The Ford headed out for builder's trials last Saturday after more than a year of delays related to newly-developed propulsion and aviation systems. The Navy will build two more in the class, the John F. Kennedy and the Enterprise, which are scheduled for delivery in 2020 and 2025.
The Navy says that the Ford-class "will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance." It predicts that the class' manning requirements will be significantly reduced relative to the Nimitz-class carriers, contributing to cost-of-ownership savings on the order of $4 billion over the life of each vessel.
At a total cost of about $13 billion, Ford is the most expensive vessel ever built. The procurement process leading to her construction has attracted heavy criticism, notably from former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who recently described the Ford as "a poster child for how you don’t build a ship."