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USS Gerald Ford Aircraft Carrier


Ford class carrier CVN78 diagram

Ford class carrier CVN78 diagram

Photo courtesy U.S. Navy


The newest aircraft carrier is the Gerald R. Ford class, the first one to be named the USS Gerald R. Ford. The USS Gerald Ford is being built by Newport New Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding. The second Gerald Ford class carrier is to be named the USS John F. Kennedy and construction started in 2011. This class of aircraft carriers will replace the Nimitz class USS Enterprise carrier. The USS Gerald Ford was ordered in 2008 and is scheduled for completion in 2015. The third carrier is scheduled to begin construction in 2016 with completion in 2023. The Navy would like to build 10 Gerald Ford class carriers, each with a 50 year life span.


The Gerald Ford class carriers will have advanced aircraft arresting gear (AAG is built by General Atomics) and be highly automated to reduce manpower requirements. Prior carriers used steam launchers to launch aircraft but the Gerald Ford will use the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) built by General Atomics. The carrier is nuclear powered with two reactors. The latest in stealth technology will be employed to reduce the ships radar signature. Enhanced weapon handling and integrated warfare control systems (from Raytheon) will further improve ship operation. Dual Band Radar (DBR) will improve the ships ability to control aircraft and increase the number of sorties that can be made by 25%. The control island has been completely redesigned to enhance operations and be smaller.

Aircraft carried by the carrier can include F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-35C Lightning II. Other aircraft on board include:

  • EF-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft
  • E-2D Hawkeye for conducting battle management command and control
  • MH-60R Seahawk helicopter for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare duties
  • MH-60S Fire Scout unmanned helicopter
The new carriers will have enhanced quality of life for the crew. There are two galleys on the ship plus one for the Strike Group Commander and one for the Ship’s Commanding Officer. The ship will have improved air conditioning over prior carriers, better work spaces, berthing and sanitary facilities.

Current carriers use steam power throughout the ship but the Ford class has replaced all the steam lines with all electric power. Weapons elevators on the carriers use electromagnetic hoists instead of wire rope which reduced maintenance costs. Hydraulics have also been eliminated and replaced by electric actuators. Weapons elevators are built by Federal Equipment Company. It is estimated that the operating cost of the new carriers will be $5 billion less over the ships life than the current Nimitz carriers. Parts of the ship are designed to be flexible and allow for future installation of speakers, lights, controls and monitors. Ventilation and cabling is run under the decks to allow for easy reconfiguration.

Weapons On Board

  • Evolved Sea Sparrow missile
  • Rolling Airframe Missile
  • Phalanx CIWS
  • carries 75 aircraft


  • Length = 1092 feet
  • Beam = 134 feet
  • Flight deck = 256 feet
  • Draft = 39 feet
  • Displacement = 100,000 tons
  • Power generation from two nuclear reactors designed by Bettis Laboratory
  • Four shafts for propulsion (propulsion units built by General Electric and turbine generators are built by Northrop Grumman Marine Systems)
  • Crew size = 4,660 crew including ship staff and air wing personnel, 800 less than current carriers
  • Maximum speed = 30 knots
  • Range is unlimited since nuclear reactors can power the ship for many years
  • Approximate cost = $11.5 billion each


The next generation aircraft carrier is the Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carrier. It will carry superior firepower through over 75 aircraft, unlimited range using the nuclear reactors and lower manpower and operating costs. The new design will increase the number of missions that the aircraft can complete making the carrier even more of a force.
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