With the role of aircraft carriers much in the news in recent months, the United States Navy achieved a significant milestone when after four years of delays, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding, delivered the first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) on May 31 following successful completion of final sea trials only the week previously. She was formally commissioned on July 22 at a ceremony held at the Norfolk Naval Station attended by President Trump. USS Gerald R. Ford is the lead ship of its class and the first new design of aircraft carrier delivered to the Navy since the first introduction of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) class in 1975. She is also the first aircraft carrier to join the fleet since the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) delivered in 2009.
Built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding
Displacement approximately 100,000 MT at full load
Beam at waterline 41m, flight deck 77m
Propulsion: 2 x A1B nuclear reactors coupled to four shafts
Speed: 30 knots +
Complement 508 officers & 3789 enlisted men
Cost $12.7 Billion ($6 Billion over budget)
Sister vessels under construction & planned USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) with delivery in 2020, USS Enterprise (CVN-80) with delivery in 2025 plus 7 more which are so far unnamed.
The new class of so called super-carriers have a hull design very similar to the Nimitz class, but importantly introduce a number of key new technologies including a revolutionary Electromagntic Aircraft Launch System and an Advanced Landing Arresting System to replace the traditional catapult launch system and wire arrester cables. The new class also has the ability to carry more aircraft, additional weapons and aviation fuel storage. Her design incorporates a new nuclear power plant and a redesigned island, which it is claimed will increase sortie rates by one-third when compared to the Nimitz class.
In the UK, HMS Queen Elizabeth (above left), the first of two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, undertook initial sea trials a month ago while China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning (above centre) recently paid a call at Hong Kong. Originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Union as the aircraft cruiser Riga, she was launched in December 1988 and renamed Varyag in 1990. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, construction was halted when 70% complete and Varyag was offered for sale as scrap by Ukraine. The stripped shell was eventually acquired by China in 1998 and towed to Dalian where she was rebuilt and converted to her current role over the course of several years. She was eventually commissioned into the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012 and in 2016 declared to be “combat ready”. China’s first home-built aircraft carrier is under construction and is expected to be followed by a series of sister vessels.
USS Gerald R. Ford honors the 38th president of the United States who came to power in August 1974 following the resignation of President Richard Nixon. President Ford became the first unelected President in U.S. history having been appointed Vice President less than a year earlier by President Nixon. He is widely credited with helping to restore public confidence in government after the disillusionment of the Watergate era.
Ship of the Week contributed by Captain Stephen Brown, West Pacific Marine Ltd.