The Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division launched the U.S. Navy’s newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), into the James River for the first time, on Monday, Dec. 16.
The milestone came just nine days after the christening of the vessel.
With the aid of six tugboats, Kennedy was guided down the river about a mile from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Dry Dock 12, where it has been under construction, to the shipyard’s Pier 3. There, the ship will undergo additional outfitting and begin its testing program three months ahead of its original schedule.
“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, 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 Ford.”
During the next phase of construction, which is expected to take about two and a half years, habitability spaces, such as berthing and mess areas, will be completed, and distributive, mechanical and combat systems, such as catapults and radar arrays, will be tested.
The future USS John F. Kennedy, now designated Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), is the second aircraft carrier of the Gerald R. Ford-class, slated to replace USS Nimitz (CVN 68) when that ship is decommissioned.
CVN 79 is the second carrier to honor President John F. Kennedy for a lifetime of service to the nation. The president wore the uniform of our nation as a Navy lieutenant during World War II and served as the 35th President of the United States, from January 1961 to November 1963.
At 1,092 feet in length and 100,000 tons, CVN 79 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% higher sortie generation rate at 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.
Kennedy is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2022.
Once commissioned, 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.