Aircraft Carrier Background
The aircraft carrier, with its embarked carrier air wing, is a preeminent asset for maintenance of maritime superiority across the oceans of the globe. History has time and again shown the invaluable benefits of having the capability to bring decisive air power to bear from the sea. The aircraft carrier, combined with the ships in an accompanying carrier strike group, is capable of carrying out missions across the full spectrum of military operations, ranging from large-scale combat operations to deterrence to humanitarian assistance. Aircraft carriers are flexible and adaptable, and, by design, thanks to their size and weight, they can generate a large number of aircraft sorties to deliver the payloads necessary for the achievement of various desired outcomes in furtherance of national military objectives. Built on the legacy of both today’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and the investments the U.S. Navy has made since World War II, the Ford-class carrier will be the most advanced ship on the sea, ensuring that the Navy remains a ready and resilient force for the future.
Introducing Gerald R. Ford Class
For more than 40 years, Nimitz-class carriers have played the first-responder role in crises and conflicts. The delivery of CVN 77 in 2009 provided continued proof of the viability of the early-’60s design of the Nimitz-class carriers; these ships have served the nation well, and will continue to do so in the coming decades. Ford-class ships will begin to succeed those of the Nimitz class when Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is commissioned. While the aircraft carrier’s basic mission will remain unchanged, Ford-class ships will deliver greater lethality, survivability, and joint interoperability, along with unmatched versatility and compatibility with continuing joint-force transformation – all at a reduced operating and maintenance cost to taxpayers. Ford will be capable of carrying the Navy’s most advanced aircraft, such as the F-35C Lightning II; F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; E-2D Advanced Hawkeye; EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft; MH-60R/S helicopters and unmanned air vehicles. Adding to its versatility, Ford will also be able to recover and launch various Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft flown by the United States Marine Corps. Finally, the design margins built into the ship will allow for integration of future manned and unmanned aircraft with minimal ship alterations.
Gerald R. Ford Class Ship Facts
The Ford class incorporates advancements in technology that make the carrier more capable and more efficient, while also providing it with the ability to implement future advancements in technology with relative ease. With increased capability and reduced total-ownership costs – through, e.g., manpower reductions and innovations, such as greater electrical production from the nuclear power plant, the use of fiber-optic networks, improved corrosion control, and the use of new, lightweight materials – CVN 78 and future Ford-class carriers package increased warfighting capability and enhanced survivability in a platform that will keep pace with the threat through the course of the 21st century.
The Island on CVN 78 is smaller and further aft than that of previous carriers, increasing space for flight-deck operations and aircraft maintenance, thus enabling the ship and air wing to launch more aircraft sorties per day.
CVN 78 has replaced legacy steam‐powered systems with electric-drive components. With three times the electrical-generation capacity of any previous carrier, the ship is readily susceptible of future modernization with new and emerging technologies throughout its 50-year service life.
A Longer time between maintenance availabilities allows for increased steaming days over the life of the ship.
Its Improved Survivability includes improvements in hull design, firefighting systems, and weapons stowage.
Improved Weapons And Material Handling are provided by the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which provide faster movement of ordnance from magazines to aircraft.
Ford-class aircraft carriers include new and innovative technologies to launch and recover (land) aircraft.
The Ford-class electromagnetic-powered aircraft launch system (EMALS) offers numerous advantages over the traditional steam-powered catapults of the Nimitz-class carriers.
EMALS provides for more accurate end-speed control, with a smoother acceleration at both high and low speeds.
The system also possesses the necessary energy capacity to support an increased launch envelope and a capability of launching both current and future carrier air wing platforms – from the lightest unmanned aerial vehicles to heavy strike fighters.
The Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system provides Ford-class ships with the ability to recover both current and projected carrier-based, tailhook-equipped aircraft, and is the follow-on system to the Mark-7 system of the Nimitz class.
AAG allows for the recovery of a broader range of aircraft and, through its greater control, reduces the fatigue-impact load on the recovered platforms.
The AAG architecture includes built-in test and diagnostic technologies.
Ford-class carriers include Quality of Life enhancements, such as improved berthing compartments, better gyms, and more ergonomic work spaces.
The Life of This Ship
The unparalleled hard work, professionalism, and dedication of the Gerald R. Ford crew is what will breathe life into the ship. The pre-commissioning crew is charged with setting, and will aim to achieve, a standard of excellence that will become the benchmark for the ships of the Ford class to come.
With more than 40 new or modified systems, the crew will continuously explore innovative training solutions, such as coordination with multiple program offices and naval education centers of excellence, as well as training with original equipment manufacturers.
CVN 78 honors the 38th President of the United States and pays tribute to the lifetime of service he provided to our nation. Gerald Ford was, above all else, a man of integrity. He was guided by his fixed moral compass and based his decisions upon his understanding of what would best serve this nation, popular opinion notwithstanding.
President Ford’s lifetime of service will be perpetually incarnated in the Ford by means of the heraldry in its official crest. The fleur de lis – pointing true North – symbolizes the Boy Scouts of America and Ford’s attainment of the rank of Eagle Scout. The moral compass represents his legacy of integrity and honesty. The map of the world stands for the ship’s global presence, illustrating in practice one of the guiding principles our Chief of Naval Operations: “operating forward.” The 38 stars are for the 38th President; 26 of them are filled in, to represent Ford’s naval service in World War II aboard CVL 26, USS Monterey. Finally, the color scheme of azure (blue) and maize (yellow) rimmed in blue and white represents the University of Michigan and Yale, his graduate school.
“Integrity at the Helm” is the Ford Foundation motto, inseparably bonding President Ford’s legacy with the essence of our Navy’s values.
Gerald R. Ford Class:
Builder:    Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News Shipbuilding
Commissioned:    May 3, 1975 (USS Nimitz)
Propulsion:    Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
Length:    1,092.2 feet (332.9 meters)
Beam:    134 feet (40.84 meters); Flight Deck Width: 252 feet (76.8 meters)
Displacement:    Approximately 97,000 tons (87,996.9 metric tons) full load
Speed:    30+ knots (34.5 + miles per hour)
Crew:    Approximately 5,500 (ship, air wing and staff)
Aircraft:    Approximately 75+
Armament:    Multiple NATO Sea Sparrow, Phalanx CIWS, and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) mounts.
Gerald R. Ford Class:
Builder:    Huntington Ingalls Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding
Commissioned:    July 22, 2017
Propulsion:    Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
Length:    1,092 feet
Beam:    134 feet, Flight Deck Width: 256 feet
Displacement:    Approximately 100,000 long tons full load
Speed:    30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
Crew:    Approximately 4,550 (ship, air wing and staff)
Armament:    Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling Airframe Missile, CIWS