On Saturday, the U.S. Navy will commission the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk. President Donald J. Trump will be in attendance, marking his second visit to the new vessel since his inauguration, and he will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Former President Gerald Ford's daughter, Susan Ford Bales, will serve as the ship's sponsor.
USS Ford is the lead ship of a new class of aircraft carrier, the first in more than 40 years, and will begin the replacement of Nimitz-class carriers when she is commissioned. Her name honors the 38th president of the United States and pays tribute to his lifetime of service in the Navy, in the U.S. government and to the nation. During World War II, Ford attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy, serving on the light carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26). Released from active duty in February 1946, Ford remained in the Naval Reserve until 1963. Ford was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1948, where he served until President Nixon tapped him to become Vice President in 1973. Ford became president in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and served in the country's highest office from 1974-1977.
"The nation's going to be very proud of USS Gerald R. Ford," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. "I am incredibly thankful for the shipyard workers and Sailors who worked amazingly hard to bring this mighty ship to life. This Saturday will be a huge day for our Navy and our nation.”
The Navy plans to spend $43 billion developing and building the three new Ford-class ships – Ford, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), and the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80). Taken on her own, the Ford is the most expensive ship of any kind ever built, with a construction cost of nearly $13 billion. She has attracted criticism from analysts and defense officials for the technical problems, delays and cost overruns in her construction.
In an interview with CBS, former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented a blunt critique: “The Ford is a poster child for how you don’t build a ship,” Mabus said. “They were designing the Ford while they were building it. This is just a dumb way to build any type of ship, particularly something as big and complicated as a carrier.”
Many of these challenges stem from the multiple new technologies that the Navy incorporated into her design – including technologies that were not fully developed before they were installed. Her new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System alone ended up costing three times its contract price, and it is not yet rated for launching fully loaded aircraft.
Her other new systems include a new reactor plant, propulsion system, electric plant, Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), new machinery control, Dual Band Radar and integrated warfare systems. Compared to Nimitz-class carriers, the Navy says, the new Ford class vessels have more than 23 new or modified systems.