Trump heaps praise on war­ship named for Ford

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - DAR­LENE SU­PERVILLE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Steve McMillan and Ben Fin­ley of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

NOR­FOLK, Va. — With praise and a bless­ing for the mil­i­tary, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump helped hand over the USS Ger­ald R. Ford to the Navy on Satur­day and said the state-of-the-art air­craft car­rier will send a “100,000ton mes­sage to the world” about Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary might when it is ul­ti­mately de­ployed.

U.S. al­lies will rest easy, Trump said, but Amer­ica’s en­e­mies will “shake with fear” when they see the Ford cut­ting across the hori­zon.

The pres­i­dent, who is com­man­der in chief of the U.S. armed forces, likened the $12.9 bil­lion war­ship to “an in­cred­i­ble work of art” and boasted about the Amer­i­can la­bor that went into build­ing a ves­sel that even­tu­ally will house thou­sands of sailors and crew mem­bers.

Trump’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the cer­e­mony also capped “Made in Amer­ica” week at the White House, dur­ing which the pres­i­dent and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials sought to draw at­ten­tion to the U.S. manufacturing in­dus­try.

“Amer­i­can steel and Amer­i­can hands have con­structed this 100,000-ton mes­sage to the world,” Trump said of the USS Ford dur­ing a speech that praised the brav­ery and spirit of U.S. ser­vice mem­bers and re­ferred to his de­sire for a buildup af­ter years of spend­ing re­stric­tions.

“Amer­i­can might is sec­ond to none and we’re get­ting big­ger and bet­ter and stronger ev­ery day of my ad­min­is­tra­tion. That I can tell you,” Trump told thou­sands of ser­vice mem­bers and guests, in­clud­ing for­mer Pen­tagon chiefs Dick Cheney and Don­ald Rums­feld, and Govs. Terry McAuliffe of Vir­ginia and Rick Sny­der of Michi­gan, who were packed into the hangar bay on the main deck.

“Wher­ever 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,” Trump said.

Af­ter the speech, he put the USS Ford into com­mis­sion and asked God to “bless and guide this war­ship and all who shall sail in her.” He was fol­lowed by Su­san Ford Bales, the ship’s spon­sor and daugh­ter of the 38th pres­i­dent, whom the ship hon­ors. Ger­ald Ford served aboard an air­craft car­rier in World War II.

“There is no one, ab­so­lutely no one, who would be prouder of the com­mis­sion­ing of this mighty ship than the pres­i­dent of the United States, Ger­ald R. Ford,” she said. “I am hon­ored to give the com­mand: ‘Of­fi­cers and crew of the United States Ger­ald R. Ford, man our ship and bring her to life.’”

“An­chors Aweigh” played as row af­ter row of sailors in crisp, white uni­forms who had been stand­ing in for­ma­tion be­gan fil­ing off to man their sta­tions. Sirens and bells sounded, horns blared and the U.S. flag was hoisted high above the deck.

Soon af­ter, the cap­tain was in­formed that the “ship is manned and ready and re­ports for duty to the fleet.”

Trump, who vis­ited the nu­clear-pow­ered car­rier in March, told Time mag­a­zine this year that the Navy should re­vert to us­ing steam cat­a­pults to launch fighter jets be­cause some of the USS Ford’s state-of-the-art sys­tems and tech­nol­ogy “costs hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars more money and it’s no good.”

Con­struc­tion started in 2009 in Vir­ginia’s New­port News ship­yard and was to be com­pleted by Septem­ber 2015 at a cost of $10.5 bil­lion. The Navy has blamed the de­lays and bud­get over­runs on the ship’s ad­vanced sys­tems and tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing elec­tro­mag­netic launch sys­tems for jets and drones that will re­place steam cat­a­pults.

The war­ship also has a smaller is­land that sits far­ther back on the ship to make it quicker to re­fuel, re-arm and re­launch planes, and a nu­clear power plant de­signed to al­low cruis­ing speeds of more than 30 knots and op­er­a­tion for 20 years with­out re­fu­el­ing.

The ves­sel com­pleted sea tri­als in April but still will go through a bat­tery of tests and workups at sea be­fore be­com­ing ready for de­ploy­ment, work that is ex­pected to cost nearly $780 mil­lion and take more than four years to com­plete, con­gres­sional au­di­tors said this month.

Docked at Naval Sta­tion Nor­folk, the USS Ford even­tu­ally will house about 2,600 sailors, 600 fewer than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of air­craft car­ri­ers. The Navy says that will save more than $4 bil­lion over the ship’s 50-year life­span.

The air wing to sup­port the car­rier could add more per­son­nel to the ship, which is de­signed to house more than 4,600 crew mem­bers.

“I was with you four months ago and I knew that I had to be here to­day and I told you I’d be back to con­grat­u­late you and the crew and ev­ery­body in­volved in com­mis­sion­ing the new­est, largest and most ad­vanced air­craft car­rier in the his­tory of this world,” Trump said. “That’s a big achieve­ment.”

AP/STEVE HELBER

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump puts the USS Ger­ald R. Ford into com­mis­sion Satur­day as the ship’s com­man­der Capt. Richard McCor­mack (front right) lis­tens aboard the air­craft car­rier at Naval Sta­tion Nor­folk in Nor­folk, Va.

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