USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Set for Saturday Christening

As the Navy prepares for the Nov. 9 christening of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the service is getting ready for 27-months of rigorous, integrated testing of the ship’s new systems and technologies.

As the first in a new class of higher-tech aircraft carriers, the USS Ford represents an ambitious Navy effort to integrate a suite of new technologies onto a single platform.

The innovations built into the first ever Ford-class carrier include a larger flight deck designed to increase the sortie rate as well as more powerful nuclear reactor cores, advanced arresting gear, dual-band radar, computer automation, turbine generators and an Electro-magnetic Aircraft Launching System, or EMALS.. The new ship is slated for commissioning in 2016, following the test period.

Military.com attended a media round table with Rear Adm. Tom Moore, the program executive officer for aicraft carriers. Check out the full story here about the ramp up for the USS Gerald R. Ford.

The concept with the Ford-class carriers, which will serve for a life-span of 50 years each, is to methodically replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers which were introduced in the 1970s, Navy officials said. While nearly complete, construction of the Ford has drawn criticisms from lawmakers and congressional watchdog groups for its escalating costs; at $12.9 billion, the Ford is more than $2 billion over budget.

The Navy says it is working vigorously to contain and reduce costs, adding that some of cost growth was due to what they called “first-in-class” costs, meaning non-recurring engineering and development dollars which will inform the entire class of carriers. The Navy is optimistic it can control cost growth on the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy, now also under construction.

The USS Ford’s larger flight deck is intended to provide the Navy with an improved ability to project and sustain power by allowing for more flight missions.  In fact, the new carrier will be able to generate 33-percent more sorties than Nimitz-class carriers can. That translates into 160 sorties per day, officials said.  Navy leaders have also indicated that the USS Ford’s flight deck and electronic systems were designed to accommodate unmanned systems as well, something which appears likely to factor prominently in the future.

Given all the new integrated technologies woven into the ship’s design and construction, Moore referred to the upcoming test period as “the most challenging and integrated test program the Navy has ever faced.”

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • rtsy

    The ninth is Saturday not Friday, but details aside it’s nice to see this ship get out of the docks.

    • Smart one

      Hence the title.

  • Mitch S.

    I’d expect the lessons learned from the Ford’s build and shakedown will ruduce the costs for the future ships in the class.
    Still, $12 billion is a lot of money for a Ford. Maybe they should swap names and call it a Lincoln!

    • Curt

      Even at $12B, it is projected to be cheaper than a Nimitz class over its lifetime with EMALS, all electric auxiliaries, reduced maintenance requirements, reduced manning, etc. A CVN costs far more to operate over its 50year life than it does to procure, on the order of $1B per year or more, so paying more upfront is cheaper in the long run.

      • blight_

        Don’t forget the reactor is good for the lifetime of the carrier. No more out-of-commission-for-a-year-during-refuel. One would hope that the complex overhaul part is also shortened…since RCOH’s took CVN’s out of business for /three/ years.

        Amusingly, this would let us live with ten carriers. The loss of the Enterprise will be sad (can we rename the Ford?), but the Fords are probably guaranteed better long-term operational tempo.

        • Talosian

          Yeah, the USS Ford always seemed like an unusual name choice. The man wasn’t even ever elected President. Have we aleady run out popular Presidents for use in naming carriers? Then recycle more names from history’s list of famed carriers. Many of the popular names from the old Essex class could be reused.

          • blight_

            USS Franklin Pierce, USS Andrew Johnson, USS James Garfield, USS William Taft…

            (Taft would be funny. Biggest POTUS, biggest carrier?)

          • FormerDirtDart

            This might interest you http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._militar…

          • Mitch S.

            But remembering Gerald Ford’s heroic service onboard a carrier during WWII I’m happy with the name.

          • blight_

            Not sure if it was /heroic/, vs Bush Senior who flew on a torpedo bomber.

            By the time Ford went to sea, the biggest engagement that he risked his life in was Halsey’s decision to get smacked by a typhoon. Ford almost went overboard (and presumably, would have died).

          • Joe Boyum

            What would be wrong with the Ben Franklin, Hornet, or god forbid USS United States?

          • kmmontandon

            Pretty sure Hornet will go to a gator, and USS United States still has a bit of stigma in the Navy as a carrier name.

        • FormerDirtDart

          CVN-80, the third Ford-class ship, will be name Enterprise http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?rele…

          • Talosian

            Excellent!

          • blight_

            Continuing a long line of Enterprises, beginning with the HMS Enterprize…oh wait.

        • Tim

          It can be named anything because it isn’t named yet, it’s a Ford class aircraft carrier.

    • Steve

      more like a porsche or a mercedes

    • Jgreen

      Lessons learned, cost reduction you have got to be kidding!!

  • Lance

    Just hope it gets good luck at the christening.

    • blight_

      Fill the wine bottle with the blood of George Washington and John Paul Jones.

  • Smith28

    USS Gerald R. Ford + X-47B UCAV + a mix of Adv. F/18 and F35 (cough) will make it a force to be reckon with.

  • blight_

    I normally harangue carrier programs, but today is a special day. It is a ‘murrica day. In terms of carrier numbers, we are where we were before the Enterprise was retired. Granted, the Lincoln is in RCOH right now, but there’s usually one CVN in RCOH at any given moment anyways…

    • Steve B.

      And who here can recall which President pronounced America that way ?

      • blight_

        I only picked it up because it was an internet meme. Could’ve been a southern president…Either LBJ or Dubya. Not sure if Carter ever called it ‘murrica.

        • Stevr

          Johnson

  • RRGED

    CHEEEERS!!!!GOD SPEED

  • 38th Presient

    Gerald Ford
    38th U.S. President
    Gerald Rudolph “Jerry” Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and prior to this, was the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974.

    • Talosian

      Yes, just never elected President by the voters.

  • Big-Dean

    wow that was close, O b aaaa ma could’ve cancelled this christening, like he did for the USS Zumwalt (paid for by the shipbuilder) and them blamed in on the guv-ment slim down.

    • kmmontandon

      “O b aaaa ma could’ve cancelled this christening, like he did for the USS Zumwalt (paid for by the shipbuilder)”

      Yes, Obama personally cancelled that ceremony. And government contractors are, by definition, spending tax-payer’s money.

    • dr. agreeable

      Huh?

    • Don Aguirre

      lets hope that no american naval ship will ever carry OBAMA’s name.maybe we can name a toilet after him and his family.

  • Joe Boyum

    all we need now is an enemy worthy of a carrier

    • Big-B

      Dont worry there will be plenty. Even if there is none at first glance you can sail around the whole world with such a ship until you find one :-)

      On the other hand i cant imagine a us-navy without such carriers. Maybe USA does not need that many of them but carriers are so versatile. They are even a good investment if they will be never used in action.

      Cant wait to see how EMALS works when ready.

      • Big-B

        With “action” i meant a shooting war

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        There’s an old joke on this theme:

        A knight of the realm returns to the kingdom and presents himself to the King:

        King: “Sir Knight, you have been gone from the realm for months. Do tell us of your exploits”.
        Knight: :”My liege, I have fought valiantly against your enemies in the North”.
        King: “Good, Sir Knight, good. Anything else?”
        Knight: “With my fellow Knights at my side, we also battled mightily against your enemies in the South and West”.
        King: “Admirable, Sir Knight. And?”
        Knight: “And for the last month before my return, I fought long and hard against you enemies in the East”.
        King [looking perplexed]: But, Sir Knight, we have no enemies in the East”.
        Knight: “Er….Well,…..we do now”.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen
        Luxembourg

        • LtKitty

          Well, now that they’re surrounded, Good Sir Knights wont have to worry about which direction they point their swords.

    • john w burns

      a carrier is also great when it comes to the aid of disaster victims

      • blight_

        I propose we use B-2’s to drop supply canisters of water and MRE’s on Pakistanis after every earthquake. Stealthy disaster relief. Tomahawk Cruising Supply Delivery Canisters. Trying not to laugh too hard at work.

        • navy259

          They will never know who saved them.

      • Kim Scholer

        I’m all for the navy helping disaster victims, but using an aircraft carrier for that is probably the most expensive way known to man for doing so.

        • tmb2

          We sent a carrier to Indonesia after the tsunami a decade ago. It served as a ready to go platform to ferrying supplies and generating drinking water until other organizations and equipment could be brought in.

          • orly?

            Agreed.

            The immense amount of flight deck also makes it ideal for organizing/offloading supplies via helo.

            It might be many times efficient as the LHD/LHAs that usually respond to such crises.

            If alot of helos are already on station, the efficiency goes up dramatically.

        • Tiger
        • Chuck

          It’s not expensive at all, as the carrier would have been out there steaming around on exercises if it hadn’t been sent to a disaster. It essentially costs nothing to send an already at-sea carrier to a disaster area. Now if you only built the carrier for that use, that would be expensive… but that’s not why we build them.

    • Joe

      Don’t worry about that, Obama is making enough enemies to take us well into the future. Just wait until China wants their money back and we can’t give it to them, because we are broke. We will need this carrier sooner than you think.

  • Rest Pal

    Christening the joker, eh?!

    Can the Navy afford to buy a few cases of decent French Champagne without using borrowed money?!

    • Rest Pal

      Only one bottle is needed. New York will send a fake one for free.

  • Paul

    now all they need is a decent frontline fighter to compliment this new carrier.

  • Tom S.

    Always a proud day to christen a Navy ship, especially a new first-in-class. (one pet peeve, and the people writing for Military.com should know better. You can refer to the ship but when you put USS in front of the name, then use the proper name of the ship, and the Nimitz is the only one that used only the last name of a president or great military leader; the rest used a full name, like Dwight D. Eisenhower; so you can call it the ‘Ike’, the ‘Eisenhower’ or the ‘USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’; so in the above article, it is the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS John F. Kennedy.)

  • Kim Scholer

    Reading through all those positive comments (so far), I can safely conclude that aircraft carriers are infinitely more popular than the F-35 and the V-22.

    • Hector Q.

      I was hoping there would be a comment somewhere here on the LCS, with the poster somehow tangentially relating it to the USS Gerald R. Ford. Seeing this blog entry on the Ford, where there is no news (other than a milestone in the program being reached), I knew commenters would go off on tangents. Therefore, I expected to see the usual targets lit-up: the F-35, the V-22, and the LCS. So far, I’ve only seen hits on the F-35 and the V-22. I’m disappointed the LCS was missed. So somebody step up to the plate and figure out a way to tie the LCS to the blog entry about the Ford, so that the LCS can be criticized here yet again!! ;-)

      • Big-Dean

        ok, I’ll bite :-D

        On the STUPID scale 0-10 with 10 being the stupidest thing to do the

        F-35 is an 11 and the
        LCS is a 15

  • Paul Woodman

    thinking about the increased sortie rate,that’s a lot of work,wil the Gerald R. Ford class have a larger flight deck crew to give those guys a break…safety first. But if they can get the planes off & recovered faster,those crews can stand down sooner,or more likely get back to work doing maintenance.

    • redbird

      I imagine the flight deck crew will have to be reshaped somewhat to accommodate the work load. Though new carriers are supposed to have less manning requirements.

      Who, I wonder, will be flying and maintaining the extra sorties, as the usual 7-8 squadrons in an airwing are already overworked and often struggle to push 100 sorties per day off the deck. Perhaps they have planned to add another squadron, but I doubt it.

      More with less… SUPER THANKS!

  • dblshot

    What an awesome piece of technology. I don’t mind the expense, at least something in the military is getting fully funded besides green energy crap while the rest of the service suffers from cuts.

  • Hunter76

    Re the name:

    This is just politicians patting themselves on the back. He served 1.5 yrs on board the Monterey, which never received enemy fire. Then he valiantly played athletics in the States the last 9 months of the war. He did his duty, but he’s no hero.

    • blight_

      “In a country desperate for heroes…”

    • PolicyWonk

      Gerald Ford was a highly underrated POTUS, and an honorable man who displayed far more courage in office than any other politician in memory. He made the *tough* (and ultimately career-ending call) to pardon Nixon because he knew it was best for the nation.

      Which is far more than can be said for most politicians we had since: Gerald Ford put the interests of the United States FIRST, regardless of the consequences.

      That takes serious courage - and I for one am proud this ship carries the name of an honorable man who served his nation interests before his own.

      • Kim Scholer

        Underrated? Can’t remember which politician(s) said Ford couldn’t chew gum and walk in a straight line, or who somewhat less inpolite called him ‘the honest ape’…..

        Sure, seeing that Tricky Dick undoubtedly was brighter than the average Potus (but - unfortunately - also a paranoid criminal), Nixon must have been a tough act to follow. But then the country probably needed somebody who was easier to trust.

  • Dylan
  • Greg Mac

    My son is assigned to her, god speed son and to all who sail on her.

  • Hunter76

    Supercarriers:

    If one goes down, that’s the immediate end to any medium war, and a future liability. All of our adversaries are investing heavily in anti-carrier tech. How long could we defend our carriers against massive attack before our munitions run out?

    • blight_

      Indeed.

      The CV’s advantage in World War 2 was outranging most classic means of striking power. The aircraft outranged the battleship and the Long Lance.

      However, provided that the seagoing aircraft can strike at place and time of choosing; so long they are unknown to the enemy. Can the carrier battle group still “strike at will undetected” against a modern opponent? If not, then the carrier will get hammered with long-range slower sea-skimming missiles, ballistic missiles that use image recognition to hit a CV and classic high-speed anti-ship missiles.

      If the carrier can escape detection and launch attacks from outside the range of its targets and successfully defeat their weapon systems, command nodes or tracking systems, then it becomes a more even fight.

  • LukeS

    Carriers to me, appear to be transferring into a role where they are running more of a defense for the rest of the blue water fleet, rather than an offensive aggressive tool. By time, these have their planes equipment, and the staff to run them though they must be worth close to 50-60 Billion. But if you didn’t have them, 10-15 low observable frontal aspect fighters could come out at super low level, and wipe out the rest of your fleet.

  • mpower6428

    Note: A stray lazer beam from Ronald Reagans “strategic defense initiative” vaporized former president “Gerald R Ford” today as he vacationed on south Florida. a nation morns……

  • Richard Parker

    It was much expensive but a great technology used and completed in just four years since the first keel was laid in 2009,here is the video which covered complete four years effort of shipyard workers who labored around the clock to complete this Giant…
    http://www.naval-technology.com/features/feature-…

    Four years of making in less than Four Minutes

  • @veronicwilson

    How the US Navy’s supercarrier Gerald R. Ford was built in just four years
    http://www.naval-technology.com/features/feature-…