- The Navy’s next Ford-class carrier is halfway done.
- The John F. Kennedy’s massive aft section was dropped into place at the end of August.
- The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy wants to buy, though some of the kinks are still being worked out.
The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.
The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.
The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons – roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.
Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.
Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.
The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.
“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.
Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.
The shipbuilder said earlier this year that the Kennedy reached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.
With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August, work on the Kennedy – structural or otherwise – is now halfway done.
The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.
The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)
The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 – two years later than planned – and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about $US12.9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.
The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers – though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the $US11.4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.
The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.
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