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Video: New Carrier USS Kennedy Launches Cars Into the Water

Kennedy
Courtesy HII

Published Feb 26, 2024 3:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

Huntington Ingalls' Newport News Shipbuilding has begun testing the catapults aboard the carrier USS John F. Kennedy, the second Ford-class ship. 

The carrier is built around a set of electromagnetically-powered launch catapults, which are fundamentally different from the steam-powered systems found aboard all previous CATOBAR carrier designs. The commissioning and testing of these brand new devices caused protracted delays for the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford, but they are now fulfilling their mission as designed, according to the Ford's crew. 

Kennedy's installation benefits from Ford's earlier shakedown experience, and the topside testing for the catapults is now under way. Newport News' staff have completed no-load tests on the bow catapults, and the team is now in the process of "dead-load" testing - that is, throwing wheeled weights off the deck and into the James River. 

Each test car weighs up to 80,000 pounds to simulate the loaded aircraft that Kennedy will one day send skyward. The cars can reach up to 150 miles an hour before flying off the bow and into the water. (At least one skipped off the surface before splashing down again.)  

After each set of shots, the test weights are pulled back out of the river so that they can be relaunched. As the cars are a symbol of the carrier's near-completion, thousands of yard workers and their family members signed the weights with messages of congratulations, HII said. 

"Reaching the dead load testing phase is a visual demonstration of how far we’ve come,” said Lucas Hicks, vice president for the Kennedy program.