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Keel Laid for John F. Kennedy Carrier

A screen grab of a Huntington Ingalls Industries' video of the keel laying of nuclear carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). HII Image

A screen grab of a Huntington Ingalls Industries’ video of the keel laying of nuclear carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). HII Image

Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) laid the keel for the second Ford-class nuclear aircraft carrier — John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) — in a Saturday ceremony at the company’s Newport News, Va. shipyard.

The ceremony marked the symbolic start of construction for the planned 100,000-ton carrier though elements of Kennedy have been built since 2010.

The initials of ship sponsor Caroline Kennedy — the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and current U.S. ambassador to Japan — were welded into a plate on the ship and Kennedy joined the ceremony via video.

“The aircraft carrier came of age in a time of conflict,” Kennedy said.
“It was untested, and the capabilities it brought were questioned. Since those early days, the carrier has come to be recognized as a symbol of peace, strength and freedom.”

The ceremony was also attended by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Naval Sea Systems Command commander Vice Adm. William Hilarides Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley.

The ceremony for Kennedy comes as Congress — particularly Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — has continued to ask hard questions into the cost growth of the Ford-class carriers.

The ships feature several news technologies — including General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) — which promise to increase the amount of aircraft sorties by almost 30 percent with reduced crew compared to the current Nimitz-class CVNs.

John F Kennedy Keel Laying Ceremony on Aug. 21, 2015. HII Photo

John F Kennedy Keel Laying Ceremony on Aug. 21, 2015. HII Photo

However, additional design and construction work for the first ship — Gerald R. Ford — have added more than $2 billion to the first-in-class ship since 2008 for a total of $13 billion.

The cost estimates for Kennedy have also increased since 2008 to more than $11 billion with Congress and the Navy currently at odds over the the ultimate size of a legislatively mandated cost-cap for the construction of the carrier.

Still, NAVSEA has promised to continue to squeeze out additional cost from carrier construction.

A composite photo illustration representing the Ford-class aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). US Navy Image

A composite photo illustration representing the Ford-class aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). US Navy Image

“With a stable design, mature requirements and an improved build process we will reduce construction hours by 18 percent, lower the cost to build the ship by almost $1 billion in real terms compared to CVN-78 and meet the cost cap,” Program Executive Officer (PEO) Carriers Rear Adm. Thomas Moore said in a NAVSEA statement in June.

  • John B. Morgen

    The second aircraft carrier should have been named the USS Enterprise; instead, the USS John F. Kennedy. The Navy needs a capital warship named the Enterprise, just like the Royal Navy needs a capital warship named named the Ark Royal.

    • johnbull

      The biggest and most powerful ships we have should have the names with the most symbolism and heritage- Enterprise, Constellation, Independence, America, etc. Naming carriers after presidents and politicians is fraught with politics. How does a glorified speed boat like LCS get named Independence, but not a CVN? Future CVNs should go back to names like these.

      • John B. Morgen

        I agree with you 100%. Naming warships today has gone awry in the United States Navy….

  • Chesapeakeguy

    The naming scheme for Navy ships has long been ridiculous. And it’s a bi-partisan joke. JFK was already honored with a carrier being named for him. The circumstances of his position and death warranted that, and that ‘obligation’ has been satisfied. The USS Ford is an even more egregious example. Glad to know that eventually the name “Enterprise” will be back on a carrier. But the names often leave one’s head shaking..

  • Leatherstocking

    It’s 2036 and the last Ford class carrier “McCain” has just completed its eval. The only odd report is that it squeaks constantly from somewhere down in the keel. 🙂