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USS Ford Demonstrates Strengths in NATO Mediterranean Training Exercise

carrier Ford NATO
USS Gerald R. Ford was at the head of a 10-day NATO training exercise in the Mediterranean (NATO)

Published Aug 17, 2023 1:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

NATO is highlighting that it just completed 10 days of training in the Mediterranean operating alongside the USS Gerald R. Ford, giving the world’s newest and largest aircraft carrier one of her first opportunities to demonstrate her capabilities. Exercise Sage Wolverine took place in the central Mediterranean from August 2 to 11 engaging a NATO task group in a series of maritime training exercises.

According to NATO commanders, the exercise was a perfect opportunity for Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) and the U.S. Navy’s Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to hone their advanced warfighting skills and interoperability. At the heart of the exercise was the new carrier Gerald R. Ford, with its air group of F-18 jets and airborne early warning aircraft.  Commanders said she demonstrated her formidable capability by launching up to 40 aircraft at a time at the height of the exercise.

The other warships participating in the exercise included three of SNMG2’s ships, the Turkish frigate TCG Gokceada, the Hellenic Navy frigate HS Elli, and the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan. The ships were also joined by an Italian submarine, a U.S. cruiser, and a U.S. destroyer, as well as Hellenic Air Force F-16 jets, U.S. maritime patrol aircraft, and a variety of maritime helicopters.  

Commander SNMG2, Royal Navy Commodore Paul Stroude, said, “NATO’s greatest strengths are its warfighting competence and interoperability, however, these do not just occur automatically.  They require constant, dedicated hard work and exercises of this nature to endlessly practice and refine a myriad of common tactics, techniques, and procedures, and thus maintain readiness.”

All the ships and aircraft participating in the training went through rigorous testing according to the commanders with a diverse range of complex, multilayered tactical scenarios, proving the two different NATO task groups could operate seamlessly together. These included air defense, long-range maritime offensive strike, anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare, communications, replenishment at sea, and medical response scenarios.

Long delayed, the Ford headed to Europe last fall followed by additional confirmation testing of its systems. In March of this year, it was reported that she began a workup exercise to prepare for deployment. The Ford was scheduled to relieve the USS George H.W. Bush, which had its tour extended while it was waiting for its replacement.