USS Gerald Ford model photo

The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, seen here in a combination model and live shot photo, is the first in the US Navy's next generation of warships, the Ford class. USS Gerald R. Ford is expected to be commissioned this year. The next Ford class ship, the John F. Kennedy, is due in 2020.

The Ford-class design is the first major aircraft carrier update since the Nimitz-class was commissioned in 1975.

Here's everything we know about both ships so far ... and it's pretty eye-popping.

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Photo by: John Whalen/Mike Dillard for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

The launching of the USS Gerald R. Ford

The Gerald R. Ford was launched from dry dock into Virginia's James River in November 2013.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

USS John F. Kennedy (2020)

Pictured here (in a composite photo illustration) is the second carrier in the Navy's new Ford-class, the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).

It is currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia and will be commissioned in 2020.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley/Mike Dillard for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

The Ford in drydock

The worker in the foreground helps put the Gerald R. Ford's massive size in perspective.

The finished carrier measures 1,106 feet long and 250 feet high.

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Photo by: Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Building the Ford at night

The completed USS Gerald R. Ford holds a number of welcome quality-of-life upgrades for sailors over the previous Nimitz design, including quieter sleeping quarters, numerous recreation areas and gymnasiums as well as better air conditioning.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

USS Gerald Ford (computer model)

Here's another model illustration of the nuclear-powered carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

The Ford itself will cost U.S. taxpayers $12.8 billion in materials and labor. This doesn't take into account the $4.7 billion spent in research and development of the new carrier class. And, seriously, we're talking about a lot of labor ...

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Photo by: Mike Dillard for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Designing the carrier in 3D

Each part built for a Ford-class carrier starts its life as a full-scale 3D model inside Huntington Ingalls Industries' Rapid Operational Virtual Reality (ROVR) system.

It it the first U.S. carrier to be designed using such computerized techniques.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Using augmented reality aboard the Ford

The Gerald R. Ford also uses augmented-reality technology to give its crew more insight into the ship's systems and improve efficiency.

Here, Commanding Officer Capt. John F. Meier demonstrates how the ship's new augmented-reality tablet system works.

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Photo by: MC1 (SW) Aidan Campbell/US Navy / Caption by:

The first cut of steel

The building of a 90,000-ton warship always begins with a single cut.

Newport News Shipbuilding held the Commemorative First Cut of Steel Ceremony for the John F. Kennedy, shown, on Feb. 25, 2011.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Welding the Kennedy

Here, apprentice shipfitter Daniel Polson works on the USS John F. Kennedy.

Newport News Shipbuilding estimates that 4,000,000 pounds of metal will be required just to weld the ship together.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Working on the propellers

Workers tighten studs on a propeller shaft tail cap on the Ford using a torque wrench.

The propellers will help the new class of ship reach speeds of 35 miles per hour-not bad for a 22.5-million pound sea vessel.

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Photo by: Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Inside the steel foundry

Newport News Shipbuilding operates its own on-site foundry.

Here, workers are casting steel anchor bolsters for the Kennedy.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Working on the USS John F. Kennedy

Here, pipefitter Trevin Wilson works on the USS John F. Kennedy.

The new Ford-class carriers were designed to require significantly less plumbing. The Kennedy, for example, has one-third fewer valves than warships in the older Nimitz class.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Bringing out the big guns

Gunners Mate 1st Class Ernest Quinones and Gunners Mate Darius Bloomfield handle one of the Ford's .50-caliber machine guns during a general quarters drill.

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Photo by: MCSA Connor Loessin/US Navy / Caption by:

Loading the guns

A team of Fire Controlmen aboard the Gerald R. Ford feed dummy ammunition into the ship's MK-15 close-in weapon system during a maintenance check.

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Photo by: MC2 (SW/IDW) Cory Rose/US Navy / Caption by:

Prepping the missile launcher

Fire Controlman 3rd Class Lawrence Batcheller performs an operability test on the Gerald R. Ford's Rolling Airframe Missile launching system remote controller.

Each of the surface-to-air missiles weighs 162 pounds and has infrared homing capabilites.

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Photo by: Ryan Litzenberger/US Navy / Caption by:

Testing out electomagnetic launchers

Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Robert McLendon participates in a waist launcher test of the Gerald R. Ford's Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS).

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Photo by: MCSA Joshua Murray/US Navy / Caption by:

Testing the electromagnetic catapult

The Navy demonstrates its new EMALS system by shuttling weighted sleds off the deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford and into the James River.

Previously, plane launches were assisted by a steam catapult system.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Success!

Ship sponsor (and daughter to President Ford) Susan Ford Bales celebrates after a successful test run of the carrier's electromagnetic catapults.

The new tech can accelerate a 100,000 pound object to a speed of 125 miles per hour in less than 300 feet.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Moving the island

Newport News Shipbuilding's crane, "Big Blue," begins moving the island, aka the air traffic control tower, onto the Gerald R. Ford in January 2013.

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Photo by: Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

The heaviest piece of the seaworthy puzzle

Weighing in at 1,026 metric tons (2.26 million pounds), the gallery deck to flight deck bridge is the heaviest component piece of the USS Gerald R. Ford.

It measures 128 feet wide by 128 feet long and houses the ship's firefighting, jet fuel and catapult systems.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Finishing the stern

In the past, major military vessels were built in one piece from the ground up. Today, the shipbuilding process is modular.

In this picture, workers lower the final piece of the Gerald R. Ford's stern into place.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Lowering the lower bow unit

Shipbuilders lower the 680-metric-ton lower bow unit onto the Gerald R. Ford.

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Photo by: Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Finishing off the keel

Workers join the lower bow unit to the keel of the USS Gerald R. Ford in May 2012.

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Photo by: Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

A cross-sectioned carrier

Here, workers prepare the cross-sectioned Gerald R. Ford for the addition of its 787-metric-ton upper bow unit.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Two million pounds' worth of catapult

The forward end of one of the aircraft carrier's catapults is put into place by a massive 1,050-metric ton gantry crane.

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Photo by: Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Just lifting 1.7 million pounds is all, NBD

Here, Newport News Shipbuilding's crane puts in serious work, adding the 787-metric-ton upper bow to the Gerald R. Ford.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Installing the final aircraft elevator platform

This recently installed aircraft elevator platform will move planes from the carrier's hangar bay to its flight deck.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Erecting the Ford's deck

Susan Ford Bales visits the USS Gerald R. Ford during the building process in 2011.

Here, the daughter of the late president helps a shipbuilder position part of the vessel's main deck.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Testing the anchor

Ship sponsor Susan Ford Bales, along with Newport News Shipbuilding employees Gary Carter (left) and Gary Paden (right), tests the carrier's new anchor-handling system.

The anchor on the Gerald R. Ford weighs a massive 30,000 pounds; its chain is 1,440 feet long.

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Photo by: Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Fire drill!

Chief Damage Controlman Scottie A. Farra trains sailors on the use of a firehose during a ship-wide drill on damage control.

The US Navy notes that this is a critical part of certifying the Gerald R. Ford's crew before it sets sail.

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Photo by: MCSA Joshua Murray / Caption by:

Hull nears completion

This aerial photo shows the Gerald R. Ford in dry dock approximately seven years into the building process (2012).

It will return here for servicing after its first 25 years on the job.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

And 200,000 gallons of paint later ...

As the famous old sailor adage goes: "If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't, paint it." And indeed, painting is a key part of the process at Newport News Shipbuilding, requiring between 120 and 170 workers to get the job done.

The new, self-healing coating on the Gerald R. Ford, shown here, is formulated to resist heat and UV rays.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

That's one way to paint an anchor

In this photo, sailors apply a special coat of gold paint to the anchor of the Gerald R. Ford.

Only ships that have received the US Department of the Navy's Retention Excellence Award are allowed the honor.

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Photo by: MC1 (SW/IDW) Joshua J. Wahl / Caption by:

The Newport News Shipbuilding yard

The USS Gerald R. Ford can be seen here in the foreground of the Newport News Shipbuilding yard.

The company employs approximately 20,000 people and is the only designer and builder of aircraft carriers in the United States.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Refueling a behemoth

Workers at Newport News Shipbuilding inactivate the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in the foreground of the photo. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), meanwhile, can be seen undergoing refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) at a neighboring dock.

The new Ford carrier class will require 30 percent less maintenance than these older Nimitz design ships, resulting in long-term cost savings for the government.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Sunrise over the Ford

The sun rises over a nearly finished USS Gerald R. Ford in 2015.

Roughly 1,600 sailors began working and living aboard the ship starting in August 2015 as part of the testing process.

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Photo by: Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Building the engine

Machinist Stuart Roes works on the main engine foundation for the John F. Kennedy.

It will take a team of approximately 5,000 people, Roes included, to build and assemble the carrier.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Final assembly platen

An assembled portion of the John F. Kennedy sits on the final assembly platform.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

...one more coat of paint...

With roughly 97 percent of the ship's construction complete, deck department sailors work to sand and paint the inside of the Gerald R. Ford's forecastle.

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Photo by: MCSA Connor Loessin/US Navy / Caption by:

The final prep work

Deck department sailors are now putting the finishing touches on the USS Gerald R. Ford, sanding the ship's anchor chain to prep it for painting.

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Photo by: MC3 Kiana Raines/US Navy / Caption by:

A trough of food

Culinary Specialist Seaman Antoria Major prepares a meal for sailors inside the galley of the Gerald R. Ford.

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Photo by: Chris Delano/US Navy / Caption by:

Lunch is served

A group of first-class petty officers give the Gerald R. Ford galley staff the day off, serving lunch to sailors aboard the ship.

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Photo by: MC1 (IDW/SW) Joshua J. Wahl/US Navy / Caption by:

Shopping on the high seas

Sailors can obtain many of the comforts of home in the Gerald R. Ford ship store using their Navy Cash debit card.

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Photo by: Kiana Raines/US Navy / Caption by:

Starbucks is on board!

It's not all hardship, sacrifice and trough-made meals aboard the Gerald R. Ford; sailors can still get their Starbucks fix at Mac's coffee shop, located inside the ship's store.

All revenue from the coffee shop goes to support the ship's sailors.

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Photo by: MCSN Cathrine Mae O. Campbell / Caption by:

A seaworthy dental chair

With the vast majority of the ship's construction finished, the dental office aboard the Gerald R. Ford is finally open for business and ready to serve its sailors.

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Photo by: MCSA Gitte Schirrmacher / Caption by:

Serving a higher power

Sailors, of course, have the opportunity to participate in regular religious services aboard the Gerald R. Ford.

An aircraft carrier may hold as many as 40 different religious services per week while at sea. Each chaplain-led service is tailored to the specific traditions of the many faiths aboard the ship.

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Photo by: MCSA Joshua Murray/U.S. Navy / Caption by:

Christening the Ford

The ceremonial christening of sea vessels in the United States dates back to the launch of the Constitution (Old Ironsides) in 1797.

In those days, a bottle of fine Portuguese wine was broken on a vessel's bowsprit.

To christen the Gerald R. Ford, the President's daughter Susan broke a bottle of American-made sparkling wine on the ship's bow.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Flooding the drydock

With most construction on the aircraft carrier finished, Newport News Shipbuilding floods its dry dock in preparation for sending the ship out to sea.

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Photo by: John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:

Gerald R. Ford christening ceremony

"When USS Gerald R. Ford joins the Navy's fleet in 2016, she will reign as America's queen of the sea for 50 years," said Newport News Shipbuilding President Matt Mulherin during its 2013 christening ceremony.

"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."

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Photo by: Zhang Jun/Xinhua Press/Corbis / Caption by:

Welcome aboard!

Captain John F. Meier, Susan Ford Bales and Newport News Shipbuilding Vice President Rolf Bartschi make the inaugural cut into a 7-foot cake celebrating the crew's move aboard the Gerald R. Ford carrier.

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Photo by: Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries / Caption by:
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