Navy Christens New Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier

The ship is designed to allow air wings to operate with fewer personnel by relying on systems that require less maintenance. The upgrades have come at a cost, though.

The U.S. Navy christened its newest aircraft carrier over the weekend, an estimated $14 billion warship set to enter service in 2016.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first redesigned carrier in four decades and the first in a new class of ships that will replace the 10-ship Nimitz class launched in 1972, according to the service.

It’s named after the former president, who served in the Navy during World War II, spent time aboard the light carrier USS Monterey and attained the rank of lieutenant commander, according to a press release from the service.

His daughter, Susan Ford Bales, christened the carrier by striking a bottle of champagne across the bow during a ceremony Nov. 9 at the Newport News, Va., shipyard of the manufacturer, Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., according to the release.

In a final letter before his death, Ford wrote to then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter, “Thus, it is a great source of pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name will be forever connected with the valor and patriotic service of men and women of the United States Navy,” Bales said, according to the release.

The carrier is designed to last 50 years and includes such improvements as an electromagnetic catapult to launch aircraft, a pair of more powerful nuclear reactors allowing for longer deployments, a flight deck that can accommodate dozens more sorties per day, a dual-band radar, and even larger water storage tanks so sailors can take longer showers.

The enhancements are designed to allow air wings to operate with fewer personnel by relying on systems that require less maintenance. The upgrades have come at a cost, though. The Ford is more than $2 billion over budget.

The Navy plans to spend about $1.7 billion in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, on the program to build new carriers. The money will fund the second year of construction for the USS John F. Kennedy, so-called completion costs for the Ford and ongoing development of ship systems, according to Pentagon budget documents.

The Ford class “will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation,” according to the documents.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.