The next Ford-class aircraft carrier will now deliver to the Navy in 2025, one year later than the service’s most recent projection, according to Fiscal Year 2024 budget documents released this week.
The Navy delayed future carrier John F. Kennedy’s (CVN-79) delivery date from June 2024 so the service could alter the ship’s Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) and perform more work during construction, according to the service’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget documents.
“The Navy is implementing a strategy to pull baseline work from the Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) into the construction period in order to provide more capability at ship delivery,” the Navy’s shipbuilding budget books read.
The altered schedule will ensure Kennedy is ready to deploy to the Indo-Pacific, according to the service.
“This approach will prepare CVN 79 as the first FORD class aircraft carrier to operate in the Indo-Pacific region and decrease the amount of time CVN 79 would be required to be at the shipyard after ship delivery to conduct the PSA,” the documents read.
“CVN 79s PSA will align to a traditional period of resolving discrepancies discovered during trials. The revised strategy maintains the overall ‘ready for deployment workups’ milestone for CVN 79.”
In 2020, the Navy switched from pursuing a dual-phase delivery for Kennedy to a single-phase delivery. That decision added two years of work to Kennedy‘s detailed design and construction contract, according to the budget books.
The additional work and schedule are so Newport News can include alterations for the carrier to field the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, and fix issues that the shipbuilder found when building USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), according to the budget books.
“To support the added duration and incorporation of new systems, additional funding is required for engineering and logistics products as well as light off and certification of the new combat system,” the books read.
When Kennedy was christened at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding in December 2019, the carrier was slated for a 2022 delivery. But the Navy at that time was still pursuing the dual-phase delivery plan, in which Newport News would build most of the ship, pause the work, and then install additional systems later.
The goal of the dual-phase delivery was to save the Navy money on construction schedules in the yard while avoiding significant overlap between Kennedy entering the fleet and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) leaving, which would strain the service financially and in manning. The Navy at the time also said it would allow the shipbuilder to install updated electronics onto the carrier. Under the dual-phase approach, Kennedy would have received retroactive modifications for the F-35C after delivery.
But the Navy’s newest aircraft carriers not having the ability to field its fifth-generation fighters angered lawmakers. After Congress mandated that Kennedy have the ability to field the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter before finishing its PSA, the service in 2020 ditched the dual-phased delivery strategy.
“We believe that the single-phase approach ensures the most effective build plan for all remaining work and provides the best value for the Navy by supporting its ability to accelerate operational deployment of this maritime force asset,” Lucas Hicks, Newport News’ then-vice president of new construction aircraft carrier programs, said in 2020.
The Navy then projected Kennedy’s delivery for 2024 as a result of the shift to a single-phase approach. The service continued to project a June 2024 delivery through its FY 2023 budget documents.