USS Gerald R. Ford, also known as CVN-78, is the lead ship of the Gerald R. Ford class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers fleet. It is the first new ship of the United States Navy in more than 40 years, with the goal of replacing the outdated Nimitz-class carriers that have been in active service for over 50 years.
CVN-78 is designed with the most advanced technologies and instruments to provide the Navy with strategic dominance amid the rapidly evolving global defense landscape. It is the pinnacle of naval power and innovation in maritime warfare.
Overview of the USS Gerald R. Ford
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first and lead ship in the fleet of Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. It is part of the CVN-21 Aircraft Carrier Program by the Department of Defense, currently in development by the Northrop Grumman Newport News’ shipbuilding division Huntington Ingalls Industries.
CVN-78 is named in honor of the 38th President of the United States, whose lifetime service focused on the U.S. Navy and the U.S. federal government. Before becoming the President in 1974 until 1977, Gerald Ford served as Lieutenant Commander on the light carrier USS Monterey during World War II.
USS Gerald R. Ford key specifications:
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the largest aircraft carrier and warship ever constructed worldwide. It offers best-in-class features, such as software-controlled electromagnetic catapults, weapons elevators, flight decks, nuclear plants, propulsion systems, and more. Most of all, CVN-78 is equipped with better autonomy, requiring fewer crew members.
- Length: 333 meters
- Speed: 30 nautical miles per hour
- Beam: 40.8 meters
- Flight deck width: 78 meters
- Displacement: 100,000 tons
- Sortie rate: 160 sorties per day
- Propulsion system: 30-ton bronze propellers
Systems running the USS Gerald R. Ford
The USS Gerald R. Ford and other ships in the fleet of the Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers have 23 new and upgraded systems compared to its predecessor, the Nimitz-class. Take a look at a few of the systems running CVN-78.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is equipped with dual-band radar, which combines the capabilities of X-band and S-band phased arrays. It gives the aircraft carrier better capabilities for a range of mission-critical environments. Meanwhile, its open-architecture software enables more autonomy with very minimal human intervention.
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) uses an electromagnetic accelerator motor to provide finer acceleration control. This system enables slower speeds when launching unmanned aircraft vehicles, providing a wider window for wind-over-deck in the launch sequence. Most of all, EMALS lowers stress levels for both aircraft and pilots, increasing the probability of successful flights.
SEASPARROW is a short-range missile capable of making flight corrections using radar guidance. Comprising a cylindrical body with four mid-body wings and four tail fins, it provides an ideal self-defense mechanism for ships against air and surface threats, including high-speed and low-altitude anti-ship cruise missiles.
Advanced Arresting Gear
Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) is one of the newest systems developed for the CVN-21 Aircraft Carrier Program. It is a modular system composed of energy absorbers, power conditioning equipment, and a digital control system, working together to require less maintenance and manpower to run aircraft carriers.
Advanced designs in the flight deck
To enable a higher sortie rate of 160 to a maximum of 220 per day, design changes in the flight deck are made to warrant better response in times of crisis. It adopts an extended deck design with four-deck edge elevators for parking for up to 90 aircraft. Aircraft service stations are also placed strategically near 18 refueling and rearming stops.
Development of the USS Gerald Ford
The Department of Defense awarded the contract to build the Gerald R. Ford class to Northrop Grumman Newport News’ shipbuilding division, Huntington Ingalls Industries. The contractor is responsible for managing the CVN-21 Aircraft Carrier Program, which plans to build ten Ford-class carriers by 2058.
Related article: Top 10 Northrop Grumman Government Contracts
Timeline of USS Gerald Ford’s construction:
In April 2023, the first ship in the class, USS Gerald R. Ford, finished a multi-week final deployment for the certification of composite training unit exercise. CVN-78 is officially certified as a combat-deployable warship of the United States Navy.
Nonetheless, listed below are some significant updates of the USS Gerald Ford over the years.
- 2003 – DoD awarded Newport News an initial contract worth $107.6 million for the CVN-21 Aircraft Carrier Program.
- 2004 – Two separate contracts worth $1.39 billion and $559 million were awarded for preparing, designing, and constructing the aircraft carriers.
- 2005 – CVN-78’s had its ceremonial steel cut, marking the start of construction.
- 2008 – An additional $5.1 billion contract was awarded to the contractor for more detailed design and construction.
- 2009 – The USS Gerald Ford’s keel was laid.
- 2013 – Four 30-ton propellers were installed in CVN-78. The aircraft carrier was officially launched and had its first voyage.
- 2014 – Onboard anchor testing was completed.
- 2015 – EMALS for CVN-78 was tested and successfully operated.
- 2017 – The USS Gerald Ford is delivered to the U.S. Navy to start its commission.
- 2018 – CVN-78 returned to Newport News, Virginia, to conduct post-delivery works.
USS Gerald Ford: Leading the Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first of the ten ships in development for the Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers. Its development plans to gradually replace the Nimitz-class carriers, which lack many world-class technologies to provide strategic advantages in naval warfare.
The new fleet of aircraft carriers boasts two new nuclear plants that can generate up to three times more electricity than its predecessor. This amount of energy is more than enough to sustain a city on the seas, complete with food services, medical facilities, waste management systems, and even desalination plants.
Other ships in the class include:
- USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), commissioned in July 2017
- USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), to be commissioned in 2025
- USS Enterprise (CVN 80), to be commissioned in 2028
- USS Doris Miller (CVN 81), to be commissioned in 2032
- CVN 82 (Ship name to be announced), to be commissioned in 2036
To date, only five ships out of the planned ten ships in the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier have been announced.
Designed as the pinnacle of naval power and innovation
The USS Gerald Ford is just one of the ten aircraft carriers designed to be the pinnacle of naval power and innovation for the U.S. Navy. The ships are manufactured to have up to a 50-year lifespan, carrying their legacy up to the next century.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is one of the combat ships designed to defend the nation’s seas. To learn more about the latest developments, strategic cooperation, and technological advancements in the Navy, sign up early for the 2024 Annual Navy Summit.