Second Gerald Ford class super aircraft carrier on track for delivery to US Navy in 2016

The keel for the US Navy’s second Gerald Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the John F Kennedy, has been laid at a ceremony in Newport News, Virginia.

The vessel, numbered CVN79, is being built by Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. More than 450 of the ship’s 1100 structural units have already been constructed since the first cut of steel in 2010.

The first vessel of the class, the Gerald R Ford (CVN78), will be the first US aircraft carrier to be entirely electrically powered. Its two Bechtel A1B reactors are two to three times as powerful as the A4W units in the USA’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. Huntington Ingalls describes it as “the most efficient aircraft carrier ever designed”, requiring less manpower to operate and saving the US Navy more than $4 billion over the ship’s 50-year life. The Gerald R Ford is due to be delivered to the US Navy in 2016.

The US Navy Fiscal Year 2016 plans that include speeding up construction of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) without changing its delivery date, hurrying to start the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) planning to avoid problems down the road, and abandoning hopes of procuring a third Afloat Forward Staging Base early.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley told the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee that current budget plans speed up Kennedy construction at Newport News Shipbuilding but would then include a gap in work before installing electronics just prior to the ship’s delivery date – which would remain unchanged.

Though the Navy is always looking for opportunities to increase efficiency by moving up schedule, as may be the case with Kennedy, it abandoned its plans to get an early start on the third AFSB (float Forward Staging Base), which is a variant of the Mobile Landing Platform built by General Dynamics NASSCO. The Navy asked last year for advance procurement funding for a ship that would be the fifth MLP and third AFSB variant, since getting an early start would eliminate a gap in production and therefore help keep costs down. But despite support from the armed services committees, Stackley said there was no support from the appropriators.

A unit for the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) rests on the assembly platen at Newport News Shipbuilding on March 5, 2014. US Navy Photo

Here is the congressional report from June 2015 on the new US aircraft carrier program

The Navy’s Aircraft Carrier Force

The Navy’s current aircraft carrier force consists of 10 nuclear-powered Nimitz-class ships (CVNs 68 through 77) that entered service between 1975 and 2009. Until December 2012, the Navy’s aircraft carrier force included an 11th aircraft carrier—the one-of-a-kind nuclear-powered Enterprise (CVN-65), which entered service in 1961. CVN-65 was inactivated on December 1, 2012, reducing the Navy’s carrier force from 11 ships to 10. The most recently commissioned carrier, George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), the final Nimitz-class ship, was procured in FY2001 and commissioned into service on January 10, 2009. CVN-77 replaced Kitty HawkCV-63), which was the Navy’s last remaining conventionally powered carrier

Navy Will Develop New V-22 Variant for COD Mission

Stackley also discussed the decision to use the V-22 Osprey as the Navy’s next Carrier Onboard Delivery platform.

An MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft USS George Washington (CVN-73). US Navy Photo

SOURCES – World Nuclear News, USNI,