Newport News christens first next generation carrier

Susan Ford Bales smashes a bottle of American sparkling wine across the bow to christen the USS Gerald R. Ford. Also pictured (left to right) are Capt. John Meier, commanding officer, CVN 78; U.S. Sen. Carl Levin; and Newport News Shipbuilding President Matt Mulherin Susan Ford Bales smashes a bottle of American sparkling wine across the bow to christen the USS Gerald R. Ford. Also pictured (left to right) are Capt. John Meier, commanding officer, CVN 78; U.S. Sen. Carl Levin; and Newport News Shipbuilding President Matt Mulherin Photo by Chris Oxley

NOVEMBER 10, 2013 — In a ceremony held Saturday, Nov. 9, Huntington Ingalls Industries' (NYSE: HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division christened Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first ship of the next-generation class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

"There is perhaps no more visible or powerful representation of America's military strength than the hull that towers above us," said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who served as keynote speaker. "No other nation makes carriers like America makes them, and this will be the most powerful American carrier ever to sail. Yet for every time that this ship will instill doubts in the minds of our adversaries, it will many more times give hope to our friends and to the people of the world. It will be welcome support in times of crisis, and it will also be comfort in times of disaster and grief. So it is truly fitting that it will bear the name Gerald R. Ford."

The first-in-class ship features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults, improved weapons movement, an enhanced flight deck capable of increased aircraft sortie rates, and growth margin for future technologies and reduced manning.

Before a standing-room-only crowd of thousands, Susan Ford Bales, the ship's sponsor and daughter of President Ford, smashed a bottle of American sparkling wine across the bow to christen the ship. During her remarks, she addressed the shipbuilders, reflecting on the relationships she has built with them during construction of her father's namesake ship.

"This shipyard's motto, 'Always Good Ships,' is not just a phrase; it is a way of life here for over a century," Ms. Bales said. "There is nothing—absolutely nothing—that can describe how proud I am to be your fellow shipbuilder. Your integrity and patriotic commitments to excellence are without equal. Shipbuilders of Newport News—you are a national treasure."

Since November 2006, more than 5,000 shipbuilders have helped to construct Ford, and suppliers from 46 states across the country have contributed specialized parts, skilled services and support to aircraft carrier production. In the weeks following the christening, the carrier will be launched into the James River and moved to a pier for outfitting and testing. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Navy in 2016.

"When USS Gerald R. Ford joins the Navy's fleet in 2016, she will reign as America's queen of the seas for 50 years," said NNS President Matt Mulherin. "She will stand as a symbol of sovereign U.S. territory wherever she sails. She will represent her namesake—a man who embodied integrity, honor and courage. And she will forever carry with her the spirit of her sponsor, the strength of her crew and the heart of her shipbuilders."