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Video: Newport News Launches Future Carrier USS Kennedy

By The Maritime Executive 12-17-2019 09:27:00

On Monday, the future aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy was launched from the HII Newport News shipyard into the James River for the first time.

With the aid of six tugboats, Kennedy was towed down the river from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Dry Dock 12, where she has been under construction, to the shipyard’s Pier 3. There she will begin her outfitting and testing, three months ahead of the original schedule. NNS expects to deliver her to the Navy in 2022.

“This move is significant in that it represents a shift in focus from erecting the ship in dock to final completion and outfitting at the pier,” said Mike Butler, the program director for Kennedy. “It is also a testament to the amazing teamwork I see every day between Newport News Shipbuilding and the Navy as we work together to build Kennedy with valuable first-of-class lessons from the [USS Gerald R. Ford].” 

F-35 compatibility

The tenor of Tuesday's announcement differed from the tensions between former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and HII over the delays in commissioning the USS Ford, the first vessel in the series. In recent congressional testimony, NAVSEA commander Vice Adm. Thomas Moore estimated that Ford's expected first deployment date would arrive in 2024, six years later than planned. 

Unlike USS Ford, USS Kennedy's outfitting period will include modifications to make her compatible with the Navy's newest fighter. Due to a non-alignment of the development schedules for the Ford class and the Joint Strike Fighter program, the first two vessels in the Ford series were not designed to operate with the stealthy F-35C. The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 - the 3,500-page bill authorizing military programs for FY2020 - includes a requirement that the Kennedy must be capable of deploying with the F–35 fighter before the completion of her post-shakedown availability.