The future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) was christened Saturday morning during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding.
Named for President John F. Kennedy, CVN-79 is the second aircraft carrier named for Kennedy built by Huntington Ingalls and is the second Ford-class aircraft carrier built by Huntington Ingalls.
As part of the time-honored tradition, the ship’s sponsor, President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy broke a bottle of American sparkling wine on the carrier’s hull. Caroline Kennedy served as ambassador to Japan in the Barack Obama administration.
“USS John F. Kennedy will carry the legacy of its namesake and the power of our nation,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said in a statement released before the ceremony. ”The advanced technology and warfighting capabilities this aircraft carrier brings to our global challenges will strengthen our allies and partners, extend our reach against potential adversaries, and further the global mission of our integrated naval force.”
Kennedy includes several technology advancements, such as the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Arresting Gear, that are expected to save maintenance costs over the life of the carrier.
However, when Kennedy is commissioned, it’s possible the carrier will not be able to support deploying with F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters. The Navy currently plans to modify Kennedy, Ford and most Nimitz-class carriers on a rolling basis to accommodate F-35C operations. The fighters can land and launch from Ford and Kennedy as built. The problem is the ships will have trouble supporting F-35C operations during the course of deployment without adding classified spaces and installing more robust jet blast deflectors.
The Navy, though, might have to speed-up its plan for modifying Kennedy. Language included in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act barred the Navy from accepting Kennedy if the carrier could not already support F-35C operations during a deployment. A conference committee of members from the House and Senate has yet to approve a joint FY 2020 NDAA.
All future Ford-class carriers starting with CVN-80 and CVN-81 will be built ready to handle F-35C operations.