NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WOOD) — The ceremony to commission the USS Gerald R. Ford was officially commissioned by President Donald Trump Saturday.
The event in Norfolk, Virginia was the last major ceremony before the Navy puts CVN 78 into full service. It is now the most technically advanced carrier in the U.S. Navy’s fleet.
AIRCRAFT CARRIER’S NAMESAKE
The $12.9 billion vessel is the first of the Ford class, named for Grand Rapids’ favorite son.
“Grand Rapids has a love affair with President Ford, Betty Ford and the entire Ford family. And to see this connection and to see the rest of the world have him held up [for] his service and what he did,” started Doug DeVos. “But we know it is the character behind all that service that allowed him to do what he did in such a powerful way.”
Ford’s children, including ship sponsor Susan Ford Bales, her brothers and their children and grandchildren will all take part in Saturday’s ceremony. Former Ford staffers are also expected to attend.
“Integrity at the helm” is the ship’s motto, which President Ford embodied as a sailor, congressman, vice president and president of the United States, according to those who knew him best.
“I just think it’s an incredibly fitting tribute to a man from Grand Rapids that… the country has admired so much. It really is a beautiful thing,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
FROM IDEA TO REALITY
The USS Gerald R. Ford was officially named in 2007. The aircraft carrier’s keel was laid in 2009, just a few miles from where it sits ready for commissioning.
The ship was christened in 2013 and has been undergoing testing and construction since. As of Friday, not all the systems were fully operational and more testing was needed.
The USS Gerald R. Ford improves upon previous aircraft carriers. It includes a new propulsion system that doesn’t need refueling for years and a new launch mechanism for aircraft that does not rely on steam, according to those who built and have served on the ship.
“Ultimately it’s going to save the taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s going to be in use for decades to come. The sophistication of the computers, the launching of the aircraft… this is the Navy that we want,” said Republican Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph.
USS GERALD R. FORD BY THE NUMBERS
A total of 200,000 gallons of paint cover the USS Gerald R. Ford; that’s enough paint to cover the White House 350 times. To connect it all, crews installed 10 million feet of electric cable.
With a crew of more than 2,600 the USS Gerald R. Ford can carry more than 75 aircraft, which can utilize its 256-foot flight deck to take off and land. Two nuclear reactors with four shafts can propel the new aircraft carrier at more than 30 knots.