Asia Defense | Security

US Navy to Christen Second Ford-Class Carrier This Weekend

The future USS John F. Kennedy will be christened on December 7.

Franz-Stefan Gady
US Navy to Christen Second Ford-Class Carrier This Weekend
Credit: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Navy’s future nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), the second ship of the service’s new 100,000-ton Gerald R. Ford-class, will be christened during a ceremony at Newport News, Virginia on December 7.

The future USS John F. Kennedy was laid down in August 2015. The carrier was officially declared structurally complete in July 2019, and commissioning of the flattop was originally scheduled for 2018. However, the date was pushed back to 2020 by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in order to place the carrier’s construction on a “more fiscally sustainable path,” according to Gates.

The John F. Kennedy is now scheduled to be delivered to Navy in 2024 with an initial deployment date set for 2026. The flattop is slated to replace the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), when that carrier is decommissioned.

The John F. Kennedy will cost a little over $11 billion to build and will be cheaper than USS Gerald R. Ford. The first-of-class flattop is estimated to cost around $13 billion. The Ford-class incorporates several untried new technologies including advanced weapons elevators, main turbine generators, a new dual-band radar system, a new advanced arresting gear on the flight deck, as well as the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system.

“(…) CVN 79 incorporates more than 23 new technologies, comprising dramatic advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling and aircraft launch systems,” according to the U.S. Navy.

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“The new technology and warfighting capabilities that the John F. Kennedy brings to the fleet will transform naval warfare, supporting a more capable and lethal forward-deployed U.S. naval presence,” the U.S. Navy said in a December 4 press statement.

These new systems, however, have significantly driven up construction costs and were partially responsible for the multi-year delays in the carrier program. “CVN 78 began construction with immature technologies and an incomplete design, leading to cost and schedule growth,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office noted in an April 2018 report. “The ship delivered 20 months later than the Navy planned, with construction-related work still remaining and over 40 serious deficiencies that could impact ship operation or safety.”

The USS Gerald R. Ford completed its year-long post-shakedown availability (PSA) period at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News in October.  The carrier expected to deploy for the first time with its air wing stationed aboard and certified for operations in 2024. The U.S. Navy plans to operate the Gerald R. Ford class for the next 87 years until 2105. The service will deploy a total of 12 Ford-class aircraft carriers with the third-of-class USS Enterprise (CVN-80) expected to join the fleet by 2027.