Military leaders and government officials from France, Germany, and the Netherlands visited the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), during exercise Silent Wolverine, Nov. 11, 2022.
Rear Adm. Jean-Marin D’Hebrail, deputy commander, French Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Command, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a chairperson of German Parliament, Gen. Eberhard Zorn, German Chief of Defence, Vice Adm. Rene Tas, head of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and other France, Germany, and the Netherlands military leaders arrived aboard the ship to observe everything that Ford has to offer to the future of Naval aviation.
“It was the first deck landing in my life,” said Maj. Gen. Andre Steur, director, Operational Policy and Plans, Royal Netherlands Navy. “Such a wonderful experience. But more importantly, it’s great to be here with Allies because of the situation in the world. The threats that are proliferating all around us require us to work together and operate together. And it’s wonderful to be here – to be on one of the newest and biggest battleships in the world, and see it work together with Allies all around. It’s an honor.”
The group landed on the ship’s flight deck in a C-2A greyhound from the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40.
After arriving aboard, the leaders were greeted by Rear Adm. John Meier, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (AIRLANT), Rear Adm. Greg Huffman, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, and Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer.
Vice Adm. Jan Kaack, Commander of the German Fleet and Chief of the German Navy has been on carriers in the past but like Maj. Gen. Steur, he has never had the experience of the trap landing onto an aircraft carrier.
“I have been on a carrier early on, several years ago, but this was my first landing,” said Kaack. “It was a great experience. I’m so glad that my frigate Hessen can provide some coverage for the carrier. Just a great visit and opportunity [to be here].”
While aboard, they observed flight operations of F/A-18 Super Hornets and E-2D Hawkeyes, which are aircraft embarked as part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8. The group also visited the pilot house, flight deck control, hangar bay, observed a demonstration of the ship’s advanced weapons elevators, and discussed integrated training exercises.
French Navy Rear Adm. D’Hebrail said the U.S. Navy and French Navy have worked together and trained together every day, every year, on every ocean.
“The incoming of the Ford here in this area is a real opportunity to improve our procedures and training together,” said D’Hebrail. “The U.S. Navy is the biggest in the world, so it’s very interesting for us to be able to train in high intensity [exercises] with Allies like the U.S. Navy, which have a lot of [opportunities] to train. The U.S. Navy is one our best Allies inside NATO.”
Before departing the ship, they exchanged gifts with Huffman and Lanzilotta to honor the visit, and their countries’ partnerships.
“The most important part of interoperability is the people,” said Kaack, as he presented Lanzilotta with a plaque. “Meeting people builds friendships, and friendships build trust.”
The GRFCSG is scheduled to continue integrating and training with the Marine Nationale, Deutsche Marine, Spanish Armada, Royal Netherlands Navy, Royal Danish Navy, and Royal Canadian Navy throughout exercise Silent Wolverine.
“Strengthening the bonds among our NATO Allies is key to maintaining security in the Atlantic and across the globe,” said Rear Adm. Greg Huffman. “Being able to host leaders of French, German, and Dutch navies aboard while at sea increases this unified approach toward stability in the region.”
Exercise Silent Wolverine is a U.S.-led, combined training exercise that tests Ford-class aircraft carrier capabilities through integrated high-end naval warfare scenarios alongside participating allies in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean.
The Gerald R. Ford CSG consists of the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS McFaul (DDG 74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). The Gerald R. Ford CSG is conducting their first deployment to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility to exercise with allies.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.
For more information about the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit https://www.airlant.usff.navy.mil/cvn78/ and follow along on Facebook: @USSGeraldRFord, Instagram: @cvn78_grford, Twitter: @Warship_78, DVIDS www.dvids.net/CVN78 and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/uss-gerald-r-ford-cvn-78/.