The $12 Billion USS Gerald R Ford Reaches A Construction Milestone

Gerald R. Ford CVN 78

Photo: Huntington Ingalls Industries

The USS Gerald R. Ford, a huge new aircraft carrier, reached a milestone in its pricey and extensive construction Thursday when its final keel section was lowered into place at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.The 680-metric-ton lower bow unit is one of the largest of the 500 modules that will make up the completed ship and is over 60-feet-tall.

The bulbous bow seen in the picture shifts water flow around the hull, reducing drag and thus increasing speed, range, fuel efficiency, and stability. Carriers with bulbous bows have achieve about 12 to 15 per cent increased fuel efficiency than vessels without them.

Currently being assembled in Newport News, Virginia, the Ford-class will replace the Nimitz-class carriers and will include an array of new technology.

  • Advanced arresting gear used to grab planes as they land on the deck.
  • Automation, which reduces crew requirements by several hundred from the Nimitz class carrier.
  • The updated RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile system.
  • AN/SPY-3 dual-band radar (DBR), as developed for Zumwalt class destroyers.
  • An Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) in place of traditional steam catapults for launching aircraft.
  • A new nuclear reactor design (the A1B reactor) for greater power generation.
  • Stealthier features to help reduce radar profile.
  • The ability to launch the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and the F-35C Lightning II.

With fewer crew and the most modern equipment, the Navy hopes to reduce the cost of future carriers while an improved design of the ship’s “island” will allow more sorties to be flown per day than before.

The Ford is expected to hit the water in 2013, and take two years to finish her sea trials before the Navy takes delivery in 2015.

A 2004 artist's rendering of the USS Gerald R. Ford, three years before construction began in 2007. A wide open deck will allow more planes to take off and land than previous carriers.

This layout from Northrop Grumman provides an idea of the carrier's layout

The F/A-18 Super Hornets will be a regular fixture on the Ford and have been in service since 1995

The F-35 will also have a specific carrier design made for the Ford-class carriers

The E-18 Growler is a specialised version on the F/A-18 used for electronic warfare that entered service in 2009 and will have a new home when the Ford is in service

Raytheon's RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile will be used to protect the Ford from attacking missiles and aircraft

A look at the Ford's progress: This 15-ton piece of a side-shell unit was the first slab of steel cut for the carrier during a 2005 ceremony

'Tis is the first keel assembly being placed in the building dock

An inner bottom unit of the Ford is hoisted by crane at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News on January 4, 2008

This 945-ton superlift section of the carrier contains a diesel generator room, a pump room, an oily water waste pump room, 16 complete tanks and 18 partial tanks

Newport News Shipbuilding completed an 825-ton superlift on the Ford September 12, 2011. At 90 feet long, 120 feet wide and 30 feet deep, the stern section superlift was among the largest of the 162 sections that make up the carrier.

The Gerald Ford is just one part of the floating island that make up America's flagship arsenal

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