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After numerous delays, Navy's USS Gerald R. Ford leaves on 1st deployment

The United States' newest and most expensive aircraft carrier is shipping out for exercises in the North Atlantic with NATO partners.

NORFOLK, Va. — Long after construction began in 2009, and long after the ship was commissioned in 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford set sail from Naval Station Norfolk Tuesday.

The $13 billion, first-in-its-class aircraft carrier will take part in what the Navy called a "service detained deployment," to the North Atlantic, and conduct exercises with eight NATO alliance partner nations.

"I am extremely proud of the hard work that has gone to prepare for this deployment," Vice Admiral Daniel Dwyer, commander of the U.S. Second Fleet, said. "And I'm even more proud of the Ford sailors and strike group team for leading the charge for this first-in-class, state-of-the-art aircraft carrier."

It's been nearly 40 years since the Navy commissioned a new generation of aircraft carriers.

Sailors on the aircraft carrier said they're happy to be a part of this new chapter.

"Since I've been on board, we've been working really hard towards this moment. And now that the moment here, I'm really excited," Retail Service Specialist 1st Class Steven Manrique said.

"They've been putting us through our paces, getting ready for its deployment. So, it's going to be real nice to finally get the payoff to all that hard work," Damage Controlman 3rd Class Travis Kelley said.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) on Tuesday wished the Ford, "Fair winds and following seas."

He said: "I'm proud of Virginians' hard work over the last 13 years to build the ship. And I will keep doing all I can through my work on the Senate Armed Services Committee to support our national security."

The Ford has been beset by numerous delays related to 23 new onboard technological systems. The ship was delayed one final time Monday when bad weather forced the aircraft carrier to remain tied up at Naval Station Norfolk.

There's no official word on how long the Ford will be gone, but Navy officials describe this deployment as "short."

A more traditional deployment will take place sometime next year.

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