The daughter of former President John F. Kennedy presided over the christening ceremony for the U.S. Navy’s second 100,000-ton nuclear-powered Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier at Newport News, Virginia on December 7.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, christened the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) by breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow.
“I’m so proud to be the sponsor of this ship and bring her to life,” Kennedy said. “The CVN 79 crew is fortunate to have such distinguished leaders; this is your day, and our chance to say thank you.”
The future USS John F. Kennedy is the second ship to bear the U.S. president’s name. The conventionally powered carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) served from 1968 to 2007 in the U.S. Navy surface fleet.
“Having a chance to get to know the people who served on the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), really gave me insight into who he was, and what kind of leader he was in a way that I wouldn’t have had any other way. And, I know that’s going to be just as true now with a whole new generation,” said Kennedy.
The John F. Kennedy was laid down in August 2015. The flattop was officially declared structurally complete in July 2019. The ship’s commissioning date was originally scheduled for 2018, which was later revised to 2020 by then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The John F. Kennedy is now scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2024 with an initial deployment date set for 2026. The carrier combines several untried new technologies including advanced weapons elevators, main turbine generators, a new dual-band radar system, new advanced arresting gear on the flight deck, as well as a new electromagnetic aircraft launch system.
Notably, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020 calls for the U.S. Navy to make changes to allow the new flattop to carry the carrier-capable variant of Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, before its first deployment, according to Breaking Defense.
The U.S. Navy initially planned to retrofit the John F. Kennedy and the first-of-class Gerald R. Ford at a later date. A refit would cost tens of millions of dollars. The John F. Kennedy is currently estimated to cost over $11 billion, cheaper than the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is slated to cost around $13 billion. The USS Carl Vinson is currently undergoing a $34 million upgrade and will be the Navy’s first flattop to carry the F-35C.
The F-35C achieved initial operating capability in February of this year. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 is slated to become the U.S. Navy’s first operational F-35C squadron with the unit’s first deployment aboard the Carl Vinson set to commence in 2021.