U.S. Aircraft Carrier John F. Kennedy Christened

Published Dec 7, 2019 4:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

The USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) was christened on Saturday at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division.

USS John F. Kennedy is the second aircraft carrier of the Gerald R. Ford class, slated to replace USS Nimitz (CVN 68) when she is decommissioned.

First steel for the 1,092-foot, 100,000-ton carrier was cut in February 2011, and following the christening, the carrier will be launched into the James River and moved to a pier where outfitting and testing of the ship's systems will continue until the ship is delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2022.

USS John F. Kennedy, along with its embarked air wing and other strike group assets, will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance.

The Gerald R. Ford class incorporates advances in technology, such as a new propulsion system, electric plant, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), machinery control radars and integrated warfare systems. These innovations will support a 33 percent higher sortie generation rate at a significant cost savings, when compared to Nimitz-class carriers. The Gerald R. Ford class also offers a significant reduction, approximately $4 billion per ship, in life cycle operations and support costs compared to the earlier Nimitz class.

CVN 79 is the second aircraft carrier to honor President John F. Kennedy. The president served as a Navy lieutenant during World War II and as the 35th President of the United States, from January 1961 to November 1963.

Former U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the ship’s sponsor and daughter of President Kennedy, smashed a bottle of American sparkling wine across the bow to christen the ship. During her remarks, she reflected on christening the first aircraft carrier named in her father’s honor.

“This ship will represent the ideals he lived by – courage, sacrifice and belief in freedom – and it will help make real his vision of a more just America and a more peaceful world,” Kennedy said. “I hope she will carry my father’s spirit with her as she sails, his leadership in wartime, his courage in crisis and his commitment to the hard and steady work of building peace.”

Former sailors who served on the first USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), which was built and christened at Newport News in May 1967, also attended the ceremony.

Saturday also marks a day of significance for the nation. “As we observe ‘a date which will live in infamy’ on this 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this magnificent vessel we see before us today is a symbol of our nation’s strength, of our technical achievements and of the critical service our men and women in uniform provide for this nation and the entire world,” said Charles Frank Bolden Jr., a retired U.S. Marine Corps major general and former NASA administrator, and astronaut who served as the principal speaker. 

“This carrier is also a tangible example of the legacy of a great man who risked his own life volunteering for hazardous duty in the Pacific during World War II in the wake of Pearl Harbor, and later came to embody a time of optimism that he translated into a vision for taking humans beyond the sphere of our planet.”

President John F. Kennedy taught us that deterrence will always cost less than war, said Thomas Modly, acting Secretary of the Navy. “The purpose of our military, including this warship that bears his name, must be to ensure our nation’s commitment to peace and prosperity for all nations of the world.”