NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) was officially christened Oct. 7 at Northrop Grumman Newport News ship yard with its namesake and 41st president in attendance.
According to Northrop Grumman Corporation, former President Bush's attendance marks the first time in the shipyard's 120-year history that a president has witnessed the christening of a ship named in his honor.
"I hope the American people will accept my sincere gratitude for an honor that touches my heart," said former President Bush. "This is any naval aviator's dream come true."
The ship's sponsor, Bush's daughter, Doro Bush Koch, christened the ship with the ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle across the bow.
President George W. Bush also attended the ceremony, standing side-by-side with Koch and his father for the christening.
"She is unshakable, she is unyielding, and she is unstoppable," said the president. "The men and women of the U.S. military represent the best of America, and they deserve the best America can give them."
"Such a ship is not just a symbol of our power," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael G. Mullen, "but a symbol of our freedom."
While the carrier still follows basic Nimitz-class specifications, Northrop Grumman has made numerous improvements. Most of the changes have been made to the 700-ton island structure, including the removal of one level and increasing the height of individual levels by nine inches, which leaves room to add new and upgraded systems as they become available.
The carrier's island, towering 20 stories above the ship's waterline, is the command center for navigation and flight-deck operations, allowing air-traffic controllers to see and direct the movement of aircraft on the ship's four-and-a-half acre flight deck.
The ship's communications systems have been dramatically redesigned to leave room for easy-integration of future systems upgrades. Improvements include communication and navigation systems upgrades, a new radar tower and transparent armor windows.
The most modern technology was employed for the ship's aircraft land and recovery equipment, Northrop Grumman stated. Technology of the same tier was tapped for improvements in the storage and handling of aircraft fuel.
According to Northrop Grumman, George H. W. Bush also features the new bulbous-bow design, the second carrier to utilize that design. The new bow provides more buoyancy to the forward part of the ship and improves the hull's efficiency. The design was first seen with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), commissioned in 2003.
The carrier's four brass propellers weigh approximately 30 tons each and are powered by two nuclear reactors that can operate for 20 years without refueling. The blades have been slightly redesigned to reduce wear and erosion.
George H. W. Bush's weight was also reduced by about 100 tons using a modernized covering on the ship's flight deck.
Nimitz-class aircraft carriers can exceed 30 knots while underway and can carry 80-plus combat aircraft. Ships in that class are 1,092 feet long and displace about 97-thousand tons fully loaded.
CVN 77 is the 10th and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to be built during the 31-year span of the class. Its delivery is set for early-to-mid 2008. The ship is expected to be able to operate for about 50 years.
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