Ford Class main intro image
Ford Class main intro image for phone

for the 21st Century

Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first new design for an aircraft carrier since USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

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.

Technical Details

Aircraft Carriers

Gerald R. Ford Class:

  • PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
  • PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79)
  • PCU Enterprise (CVN 80)

Nimitz Class:

  • USS Nimitz (CVN 68)
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)
  • USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)
  • USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)
  • USS George Washington (CVN 73)
  • USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)
  • USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)
  • USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)
  • USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)
photo of CVN78 Builders Sea Trials Underway

Technical Specifications

Nimitz 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)

  • Aircraft:    75+

  • Armament:    Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling Airframe Missile, CIWS

The Island rest on the flight deck of the Gerald R Ford CVN 78.

Big Blue

NNSY Construction Crane

The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding on 2/5/2013.  The Ford is the first in a class of new nuclear-powered carrier being built at Newport News for the U. S. Navy.  Photo by John Whalen, Newport News Shipbuilding


CVN 78 Construction

CVN78 strut pour in foundry.

Hot Stuff

Foundry Steel for CVN 78

Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), gives a presentation on President Gerald R. Ford during the first indoctrination onboard the ship


New Systems Training

Ford Arrives at Norfolk video

PCU Ford

Arrival to Naval Station Norfolk

CVN78 Flying Squad video

Flying Squad

Damage Control

An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch during a test of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System at Naval Air Systems Command


Launch tests at NAVAIR Lakehurst

Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailors on-load ship galley supplies

Carry On

Shipboard Navigation under Construction

CVN78 General Quarters video


PCU Ford CVN 78

Deck Department Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), polish the capstone inside the ship's forecastle

Heavy Metal

Anchor Chains on Deck



All Hands Update

PCU FORD Christening Ceremony video

Christening Ceremony 2013

Gerald R Ford CVN 78

The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) floats in the James River after being launched from dry dock at Newport News Shipbuilding

Turn Ship

CVN 78 Milestone

Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Flood video

Dry Dock Flooding

Ships Sponsor

Gerald R. Ford CVN 78 island

Night Life

Topside after Dark

Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Island Lift video

Island Lift

CVN 78

A propeller and shaft for the aircraft carrier Gerald R Ford CVN 78 undergo fitting opertions

Big Props

CVN 78 Propeller Build

Supervisor of Shipbuilding (SUPSHIP) review areas and procedures for ventilation inspections aboard the ship


SCVN 78 Construction

Sunset at the ship

Next Generation

CVN 78 alongside CVN 65

give training on the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System

Fast Track

Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System

Sailors aboard participate in a firefighting drill on board the ship

Fire Party

GQ Drill

Newport News Shipbuilding's Tosha Revere, demonstrates three dimensional Immersive Visualization techniques using a Rapid Operational Virtual Reality ROVR system


Rapid Operational Virtual Reality

Sailors prepare to launch a 16,000-pound sled from the ship’s flight deck using the ship’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System

Dead Load

EMALS Catapult Test

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Shelby Edson and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Lawrence Batcheller insert a Load-Out Test Adapter into a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launching system as part of an operability test


Rolling Airframe Missile Launching System

Tug boats maneuver Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), into the James River during the ship's turn ship evolution

Little Tugs that Could

Turn Ship Evolution

A Newport News Shipbuilding worker cleans the dry dock floor in front of the aircraft carrier


CVN 78 in NNSY Drydock

Ship's sponsor Susan Ford Bales christens the aircraft carrier that bears her father's name

Christening Ceremony

Gerald R. Ford CVN 78

Damage Control Training Team conducts firehose training during a general quarters drill

Lower the Hose

Shipboard Firefighting

The christening ceremony for the aircraft carrier Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) at Newport News Shipbuilding

Standing Room Only

Christening Ceremony 2013

Sailors prepare to launch a “dead-load” from the ship’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)

Hook Me Up

EMALS Dead Load Test

The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) under construction in a night photo at Newport News Shipbuilding

Bright Lights

CVN 78 in Drydock at Night

President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay


Presidential Visit to PCU FORD

The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway on its own power for the first time

Comin’ at Ya

Builders Sea Trials

The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) pulls into Naval Station Norfolk for the first time


Sea Trials 2017

The future USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk after returning from Builder's Sea Trials and seven days underway


First Arrival to Naval Station Norfolk

Sailors man the rails as the ship returns to Norfolk after conducting builder’s sea trials

Man the Rails

PCU FORD arrives in Norfolk

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