On Saturday, President Donald J. Trump commissioned the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. Trump landed on the flight deck in the presidential helicopter and was greeted by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and USS Ford C/O Capt. Rick McCormack.
"Wherever this vessel cuts through the horizon, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming and America is coming strong," said Trump. "Our true strength is our people. Our greatest weapon is all of you. Our nation endures because we have citizens who love America and who are willing to fight for America."
Acting Navy Secretary Stackley highlighted the role of the carrier as a symbol of American strength. “As we marvel at the technology and the daunting numbers that measure this ship, never lose sight that in times of crisis, you will be the first to respond, and when called upon, you will deliver the final word in the bidding of our nation," said Stackley. "Whenever you sail, wherever you sail, you will be a symbol of United States resolve and you will be a symbol of the man whose name you bear."
At the ceremony’s conclusion, President Ford's daughter, Susan Ford Bales, gave the traditional command to "man our ship and bring her to life," and Ford sailors ran up the brows and manned the rails.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the lead ship in the Ford class of aircraft carriers, the first new class in more than 40 years, and her commissioning begins the phased replacement of the venerable Nimitz-class carriers.
The USS Ford completed builder's and acceptance trials in May, and the Navy formally took delivery on June 1, about 15 months behind schedule and $2 billion over budget. At a build cost of nearly $13 billion, she is the most expensive vessel ever built. Despite the Navy’s acceptance, the Ford cannot yet launch fully loaded aircraft: her electromagnetic aircraft launch system has had problems in testing and is not certified to launch fighters with wing tanks.
The House Armed Services Committee may allow the Navy to put the Ford into service without shock testing, the practice of subjecting a warship to a series of explosions in order to test its combat resilience. Omitting shock trials could help the Navy to deploy Ford as early as 2020, which would fill gaps in the fleet and allow the carrier Ronald Reagan to rotate out of operation for maintenance.
The Ford’s name honors the 38th president of the United States and pays tribute to his 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). Ford became president after the resignation of President Richard Nixon, who stepped down in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Ford served in the country's highest office from 1974-1977.