The USS Gerald R. Ford is one of the most advanced and most expensive pieces of military hardware ever built. After years of development and many delays, she was finally ready for deployment only a few months ago.
Costing somewhere in the region of $13.3 billion to build, many have argued that the money could probably have been better spent elsewhere. However, as you are about to find out, that money has bought a very tough and incredibly capable piece of kit.
Let's take a closer look at this amazing piece of floating military engineering.
What is the USS Gerald R. Ford?
The USS Gerald R. Ford, the official designation "Carrier, Volplane, Nuclear 78" (CVN 78), is the United States Navy's latest and most advanced aircraft carrier designed and built to replace their aging Enterprise and Nimitz classes of supercarriers. The first of her class, she is named after Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States, who served in the Navy during WWII and saw combat aboard the light aircraft carrier USS Monterey in the Pacific Theater.
First ordered in 2008, on August 11, 2005, Northrop Grumman staged a ceremonial steel cutting for a 15-ton plate that would be part of the carrier's side shell unit. The Gerald R. Ford's keel was set down on November 13, 2009, and on November 9, 2013, she was officially christened.
The USS Gerald R. Ford was a replacement for the then retired USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which had served for 51 years.
USS Gerald R. Ford was delivered to the Navy on May 31, 2017, and she was formally commissioned by President Donald Trump on July 22, 2017, several years after her planned delivery in 2015. It was originally slated for delivery in 2015. It is one of the world's largest aircraft carriers and the largest warship in terms of displacement as of 2017.
In a major combat operation, the Gerald R. Ford-class will be the prime forward asset for crisis response and early decisive strike power.
When compared to the Nimitz-class, each ship in the Gerald Ford-class will, according to Naval officials, save more than $4 billion in total ownership expenditures over its 50-year service life. Compared to a CVN 68-class ship, the CVN 78 class is able to operate with almost 700 fewer crew members.
The USS Gerald Ford's air wing is able to operate with less crew, too, with around 400 fewer personnel, thanks to improvements in ship design compared to its predecessors. The USS Gerald R. Ford is also the first aircraft carrier to be built entirely using electric utilities, removing the need for steam service lines, lowering maintenance costs, and increasing corrosion control.
The ship, and her class, are equipped with two upgraded A1B nuclear reactors, the so-called Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Weapons Elevators, Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and Dual Band Radar (DBR). These systems all provide increased capability while reducing staffing requirements for the vessel. (Although technical problems with the new equipment significantly delayed the deployment of the vessel.)
During the ship's planned 50-year service life, the ship's configuration and electrical generating plant are also designed to accept future technologies, including direct energy weapons, as and when they are deemed necessary for retrofitting.