By Rear Adm. Tom Moore
Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers
Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) will be christened Saturday in Newport News, Va., by Mrs. Susan Ford Bales, CVN 78’s sponsor and daughter of the late president. The christening of the ship comes after more than 12 years of planning and construction preparation. While we are still 28 months from delivery, the thousands of Navy personnel, shipbuilders and contractors who have worked on the ship are beginning to see the fruits of their labors.
I am extremely proud of this great ship and what we have been able to accomplish as a team. The coordination amongst the program office, the shipbuilder – Huntington Ingalls Industries at Newport News, the engineers at NAVSEA 05V, our resource sponsor at OPNAV N98, and the Congressional support and oversight, has been an integral part of building the next generation platform that is vital to our national defense strategy.
It’s no secret that we have faced challenges building the first new aircraft carrier design in 40 years. Her christening was delayed by four months to maximize the outfitting we could accomplish in the dry dock. In the shipbuilding industry, we use the term “1-3-8 Rule” to summarize the amount of time a task would take to complete; one hour in the shop, three hours in the dry dock, and eight hours tied to the pier. Those four extra months in dry dock provided us the opportunity to work in the most efficient manner, bringing the ship to 70 percent completion and 77,000 tons at launch. When we launched USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), she was less than 60 percent complete. CVN 78 will be the heaviest aircraft carrier at launch in history. The decision to delay launch and continue work in the dry dock will ensure the most affordable path to delivery.
CVN 78 incorporates multiple developmental systems. The Ford class is a total redesign of the Nimitz class, incorporating advances in technology such as a new reactor plant, propulsion system, electric plant, electromagnetic catapults, advanced arresting gear, machinery control, and integrated warfare systems. The Ford class brings a 33 percent increase in sortie generation rate, quality-of-life improvements, and reduced maintenance. Together, these efforts will reduce manning by more than 600 billets, improve operational availability and capability, and reduce total ownership cost over its 50-year service life by $4 billion compared with Nimitz class carriers.
I like to tell the folks here at PEO Carriers that for CVN 78, the easy part is behind us- now comes the hard part. She will begin a 28-month test period, in which all of these technologies will be integrated with the all new electrical plant for the first time. The Ford class carrier may look like the Nimitz class, but what is inside is much more complex. I look forward to delivering this ship to the fleet in 2016, and feel honored to be part of the government-industry team building this fantastic ship that will be the first ship of a class at the center of Naval Aviation for the next 100 years.
Editor’s Note: You can watch the christening ceremony live Saturday here on Navy Live.