The United States Navy has formally taken delivery of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).
Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding handed the massive 100,000-ton ship over to the Navy on May 31 following her successful completion of acceptance trials on May 26. Gerald R. Ford is the Navy’s first new carrier design since USS Nimitz (CVN-68)—which was the first of her kind—was accepted into service in 1975.
"Congratulations to everyone who has helped bring CVN-78 to this historic milestone," Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, Naval Sea Systems Command’s program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a statement. "Over the last several years, thousands of people have had a hand in delivering Ford to the Navy—designing, building and testing the Navy's newest, most capable, most advanced warship. Without a doubt, we would not be here without the hard work and dedication of those from the program office, our engineering teams and those who performed and oversaw construction of this incredible warship. It is because of them that Ford performed so well during acceptance trials, as noted by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey."
Vice Adm. Tom Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command and a former Ford-class program manager, who was embarked onboard the ship for acceptance trials expressed his satisfaction with the new carrier’s delivery.
"Well done to our shipbuilding partners, Ford’s crew and everyone who supported them," Moore said.
According to NAVSEA, Ford will be commissioned into the fleet this summer—receiving the prefix United States Ship or USS—formally placing the ship into active service with the Navy. Subsequently, Ford will undergo a "shakedown" period where the carrier will conduct several at-sea events. Those ‘events’ will be designed to provide Ford’s crew longer underway periods to learn how to operate and train on the ship's new systems.
Additionally, the Navy will have to perform some more work on the ship that was deferred during construction and correct any deficiencies that were identified during sea trials. The Navy will address those issues during in-port periods after the ship is commissioned according to NAVSEA. Though the ship is going to be commissioned this year, Ford is not planned to achieve initial operational capability until 2020.
Aircraft carriers are inherently complex vessels, but the Ford is the first of the next generation of aircraft carrier—incorporating some band new technologies. Thus, the process of building and commissioning the ship took longer than expected.
As NAVSEA summarizes: “The Gerald R. Ford class delivers unprecedented flexibility to the fleet. Due to a larger flight deck, the ability to host more aircraft, additional weapons and aviation fuel storage, and the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, Ford will be able to increase sortie rates by one-third when compared to the Nimitz class. Further, the Navy's newest aircraft carrier generates three times the amount of electricity as previous classes and is designed to rapidly add capabilities as new systems become available over the course of its projected 50-year service life.”
With Ford now formally delivered to the Navy, Newport News is concentrating on completing the second carrier of the class, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). Meanwhile, the third ship, Enterprise (CVN-80), will be formally appropriated in the fiscal year 2018 budget. Ultimately, the Navy could build as many as 10 Ford-class carriers.
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Davemajumdar.