USS Gerald R Ford
OA DAY full of horn-blowing fanfare, gun- firing and flag- hoisting festivities at Norfolk, Va., the US navy July 22 commissioned the first of a new generation of substantially more powerful and technologically highly advanced aircraft carriers that will transform the way maritime air power is applied in future.
US President Mr Trump, presided over the commissioning ceremony for the nuclear powered Gerald R. Ford which, though delayed by over two years in the making with escalating costs that touched almost $13 billion, nonetheless achieved a milestone for the US Navy in its quest to maintain a sizable modernisation gap in its favour, to take on the ever-changing security challenges in an increasingly troubled world.
Addressing a star-studded gathering that included governors, lawmakers, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and US Naval brass, President Trump extolled, “American steel and American hands have constructed a 100,000- tonne message to the world: American might is second to none... And we’re getting bigger, better and stronger.”
“As we put this stunning ship into the service of our nation, we must also pay tribute to the thousands of citizens, military and civilian, who helped design and build her. Their love of country has been poured into every rivet and bulkhead on this vessel. You hammered, chiseled, and sculpted this mighty hull. You were there when the first steel was cut, when the turbines first roared to life, and when those beautiful bronze propellers first began to spin -- and spin they did. And now you are here to witness the moment when your incredible work of art becomes the pride of the United States Navy and a symbol of American power and prestige, no matter where in the world you go.”
USS Gerald R. Ford ( CVN 78) will represent a new class of aircraft carriers after a gap of 42 years since the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) that was commissioned in 1975. Pioneering new technologies such as electromagnetic catapults and arresting gear, a new island structure and expanded flight deck, it will allow her to launch aircraft faster than ever before. She would produce two and a half times more electrical power with two next-gen nuclear reactors and while there would
be a substantial increase in operational capabilities, the ship would need 500 fewer crew members which according to Navy estimates would result in a $4 billion saving over a 50-years life-span.
While the Gerald Ford super carrier boasts of a number of technological improvements over the previous Nimitz class carriers such as Rayetheon’s vastly improved AN/SPY-3 active electronically scanned array multi-function radar, the biggest technological break-through has been achieved in the way the aircraft will be launched and recovered on board the carrier. After years of development and testing, General Atomics have perfected the EMALS/AAG (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System/Advanced Arrester Gear) systems that have replaced for the first time, the traditional steam catapults and arrester systems. This innovation eliminates the traditional requirement to generate and store steam, freeing up considerable area below-deck. With this EMALS innovation, Gerald R. Ford can accomplish 25 per cent more aircraft launches, which would translate to more than 250 sorties per day from the twin launchers. EMALS will be able to launch all types of aircraft from the carrier’s deck including unmanned aircraft of various sizes.
Incidentally, all future aircraft carriers of the US Navy starting with the follow on super carriers USS John F. Kennedy and USS Enterprise of the Ford class will be equipped with the GA EMALS/AAG systems. And, notably, the Indian Navy is also considering EMALS/AAG systems for its futuristic aircraft carrier IAC- 2 (INS Vishal
Gerald R. Ford will be able to carry up to 90 aircraft, including the Boeing
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, Grumman C- 2 Greyhound, Northrop Grumman E- 2 Hawkeye, Lockheed Martin F- 35C Lightning II, Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, and unmanned combat aerial vehicles such as the Northrop Grumman X-47B.
Endowed with stealth features, the carrier will be armed with the Raytheon Evolved Sea Sparrow missile ( ESSM), which defends against high-speed, highly manoeuvrable anti- ship missiles. The close-in weapon system, and the rolling airframe missile ( RAM) from Raytheon and Ramsys GmbH are also on board.
Just before placing Gerald R. Ford in commission at the invitation of her commanding officer Captain McCormack, Mr Trump declared amidst applause, “Whenever this vessel cuts through the horizon, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming and America is coming strong.”
T he commissioning ceremony concluded with Mrs Susan Ford Bales, President Ford’s daughter and the ship’s official sponsor giving command to “bring her to life”. To the strains of ‘Anchors Aweigh’, the flag was hoisted and the massive carrier sprang to life with sailors reporting on stations and the radars beginning to churn.
President Donald Trump stands for the colours as he arrives during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at Naval Station Norfolk
“A 100,000-tonne message to the world”, as USS Gerald Ford cuts through the waters during builders’ trials
Named after the 38th president of the United States, USS Gerald R. Ford pays tribute to his lifetime of service in the Navy, in the US government and to the nation – a man who embodied integrity, honour and courage. During World War II, President Ford served on the light carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26) in the rank of a lieutenant commander. Released from active duty in 1946, Ford remained in the Naval Reserve until 1963. Entering the political arena, soon after his release from the service, Ford was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1948, where he served until President Nixon picked him up to be the Vice President in 1973. Ford became president in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and served in the country’s 1977.
Mrs Susan Ford Bales, President Ford’s daughter and the ship’s official sponsor giving command to “bring her to life”
USS Gerald Ford (CVN 78) underway after commissioning
The ship’s crest incorporates many symbols reminiscent of President Ford’s life and pointing true north, which comes from his rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts; and 38 stars surrounding the emblem to represent his tenure as the 38th President of the United States, 26 stars are a different colour to denote his time stationed aboard USS Monterery during World War II. The crest’s colours include blue and maize for his undergraduate alma mater, University of Michigan.