The U.S. Navy christened its newest aircraft carrier, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), during an 11 a.m. EST ceremony at Newport News, Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 7.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, the ship’s sponsor and also 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’m so proud to be sponsor of this ship and to join with all of you to bring her to life. I look forward to being part of her odyssey and of her extended family. Most of all, 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.”
More than 20,000 guests attended the ceremony, including members of the Virginia congressional delegation U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott, who both offered remarks; and U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria. Other speakers included former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Adm. Frank Caldwell, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
Ceremony participants included James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA); Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command; and Capt. Todd Marzano, the ship’s prospective commanding officer.
Adm. Tom Fargo (U.S. Navy, Ret.), HII chairman of the board, and Mike Petters, HII president, and CEO, were in attendance, as well as Newport News employees who are building Kennedy, Kennedy’s crew, Navy personnel, and other government officials. 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.
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.
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.
Built by Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division, 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.
At 1,092 feet in length and 100,000 tons, CVN 79 incorporates more than 23 new technologies, comprising dramatic advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling, and aircraft launch 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.