August 3, 2020 – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed an Air Intercept Control (AIC) event on July 30. A first for the crew, this accomplishment was another milestone of Ford’s operational progress as she passes the half-way point of her 18-month Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T).
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed an Air Intercept Control (AIC) event on July 30. A first for the crew, this accomplishment was another milestone of Ford’s operational progress as she passes the half-way point of her 18-month Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T).
AIC missions are required to increase the Combat Direction Center’s proficiency through training. AIC missions are also an opportunity to demonstrate integration with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 as part of the air defense mission to defend Ford and the rest of the force.
Lt. Shane Welsh, the air defense officer for the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) training with Ford’s operations team, said the mission was a collaborative effort between Ford and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and CVW-8.
“The Ford is considered an air defense unit (ADU),” said Welsh. “The Air and Missile Defense Commander (AMDC) assigned Ford the mission to control defensive counter air assets. If we had other ADUs in the area, the AMDC would coordinate with them and would report information to the battle watch in the Tactical Flag Command Center.”
Ford’s Air Intercept Controller, Operations Specialist 1st Class David Geary, from Davenport, Iowa, controlled two separate AIC events. Both were Defensive Counter Air missions designed to protect a high value asset against several waves of “red air” threats. First were two F/A-18E Super Hornets, attached to the “Jolly Rogers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, followed by four F/A-18F Super Hornets from the VFA-213 Black Lions. Despite being outnumbered by the threat, the Jolly Rogers and Black Lions integrated with Ford’s AIC and employed TOPGUN recommendations to successfully defend Ford.
“We were simulating an air defense scenario,” said Geary. “We were controlling the fighter to intercept, escort and if necessary kill the inbound threat aircraft.”
The AIC is the third wingman in the fighter community. The AIC’s job is to paint a mental picture for the pilots in the air via voice and data link communication.
“I am in voice communication with all the fighters,” said Geary. “As the fighters and threats close, I must put together a specific timeline to ensure they have best situational awareness possible to enhance lethality and increase survivability.”
“It was an excellent event,” said Welsh. “It’s a new ship, new crew, new strike group. Getting that continuity together where it’s all second nature, that’s what’s important.”