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USS Gerald Ford model photo

The launching of the USS Gerald R. Ford

USS John F. Kennedy (2020)

The official commissioning

Saluting the commander in chief

Bringing the Ford to life

The Ford's trials will continue through 2021

The Ford in drydock

Building the Ford at night

USS Gerald Ford (computer model)

Designing the carrier in 3D

Using augmented reality aboard the Ford

The first cut of steel

Welding the Kennedy

Working on the propellers

Inside the steel foundry

Working on the USS John F. Kennedy

Loading the missiles

Bringing out the big guns

Loading the guns

Prepping the missile launcher

Mooring by rifle

Keeping an eye on the sky

Controlling the ship

Testing out electomagnetic launchers

Testing the electromagnetic catapult

Success!

A switch back to steam?

Moving the island

The heaviest piece of the seaworthy puzzle

Finishing the stern

Lowering the lower bow unit

Finishing off the keel

A cross-sectioned carrier

Two million pounds' worth of catapult

Just lifting 1.7 million pounds is all, NBD

Installing the final aircraft elevator platform

Giving a tour to the VIPs

Erecting the Ford's deck

Testing the anchor

Fire drill!

Sweeping up a foamy mess

The Rainbow Sideboys

Hull nears completion

And 200,000 gallons of paint later ...

That's one way to paint an anchor

The Newport News Shipbuilding yard

Refueling a behemoth

Sunrise over the Ford

Building the engine

Final assembly platen

Art inside the warship

...one more coat of paint...

The final prep work

A trough of food

Lunch is served

Shopping on the high seas

Starbucks is on board!

A seaworthy dental chair

Serving a higher power

Passover on the Ford

A tradition that dates back to 1596

President Trump visits the USS Ford for the first time

"Big, big trouble" for America's enemies

Christening the Ford

Flooding the drydock

Gerald R. Ford christening ceremony

Welcome aboard!

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 was officially commissioned on July 22, 2017. The next Ford class ship, the John F. Kennedy, is due in 2020.

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

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

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

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

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

The USS Gerald Ford was officially commissioned on July 22, 2017 in Norfolk, Virginia. Rooted in naval tradition, a commissioning is an elaborate ceremony that puts a ship in active service.

Caption by / Photo by MC2 Jason Pastrick

Though President Trump has been critical of the ship in the past, he struck a much more inspirational tone during the ship's commissioning ceremony.

"American hands and American steel constructed a 100,000-ton message to the world: American might is second to none," he said.

Caption by / Photo by MC3 Matthew Fairchild

With President Ford's daughter Susan Bales Ford giving the order on July 22 to "bring her to life," sailors aboard the USS Gerald Ford rush to man the rails -- that is, take evenly spaced positions along the sides of the ship for a salute.

Caption by / Photo by MC2 Ryan Litzenberger

Despite being officially commissioned, the Ford will require another four years of trials before deployment. This will add another $780 million to the ship's already hefty price tag.

Caption by / Photo by US Navy/Getty Images

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.

Caption by / Photo by Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

The Ford itself will cost US 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 ...

Caption by / Photo by Mike Dillard for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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 US carrier to be designed using such computerized techniques.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

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

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by Huntington Ingalls Industries

Newport News Shipbuilding operates its own on-site foundry.

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

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

Here, a group of sailors from the ship's Combat Systems department practice loading a dummy RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile into the NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System launcher.

Caption by / Photo by MC1 (SW/AW) Patrick Grieco

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.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Connor Loessin/US Navy

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.

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

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.

Caption by / Photo by Ryan Litzenberger/US Navy

Not all guns on the Ford are used for offense or defense.

Gunner's Mate Seaman Sharon Handler prepares an M-14 rifle loaded with a Mark-87 line throwing kit, assisting with the mooring of the PCU Gerald R. Ford as it returns to Norfolk, Virginia.

Caption by / Photo by MC2 Jason Pastrick

Interior Communications Electrician Seaman Beatriz Milique monitors the flight deck of the Ford from Primary Flight Control, or "tower."

It is from this location that the air officer (also known as the air boss) and an assistant (the mini-boss) manage and approve all aircraft operations from the deck of the ship to five nautical miles out.

Caption by / Photo by MCSN Gitte Schirrmacher/US Navy

The ship's bridge, or control center, is one level beneath the Primary Flight Control. From here, Capt. Richard McCormack, the PCU Gerald R. Ford's commanding officer, discusses the bridge watch team dynamics with a group of sailors.

The captain controls the ship. The helmsman is responsible for the actual steering, while the lee helmsman controls the ship's speed via the engine room. The Quartermaster of the Watch tracks the ship's navigation.

Caption by / Photo by MCSN Gitte Schirrmacher/US Navy

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).

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Joshua Murray/US Navy

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

President Trump, in an interview with Time, panned the ship's new high-tech catapult system.

"I said you don't use steam anymore for catapult? 'No sir.' I said, 'Ah, how is it working?' 'Sir, not good. Not good.'

"It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it's very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said -- and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said what system are you going to be -- 'Sir, we're staying with digital.' I said no you're not. You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it's no good."

Caption by / Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Caption by / Photo by Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

The USS Gerald R. Ford has hosted a number of important dignitaries from the private and public sectors. In this June 2016 photo, Captain Richard McCormack gives a tour of the ship's bridge to New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and his wife.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Connor Loessin

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Joshua Murray

There's more than one way to fight fires aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford. Here, sailors sweep massive amounts of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) out of the ship's hangar bay following a test of its sprinkler system on April 10, 2017.

The fluorinated surfactants in AFFF are especially effective against two-dimensional liquid fuel fires, but there are questions about its environmental safety.

Caption by / Photo by MC3 Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/US Navy

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Airman Dusten Pickell collects a bottle of kerosene-based JP-5 jet fuel, used in the carrier's aircraft, for testing.

Pickell and the rest of the flight deck crews of the PCU Gerald R. Ford wear color-coded uniforms associated with their specific duties. All aviation fuel handlers wear purple, for example, while aircraft handling officers wear yellow, crash and salvage crews wear red, and messengers or phone talkers wear blue.

Important visitors to the ship are greeted by the "Rainbow Sideboys," a lineup of two sailors of each color standing opposite each other.

Caption by / Photo by MCSN Gitte Schirrmacher

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

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

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by Ricky Thompson for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

You can't build a $13 billion warship without adding some character to it.

Here, Communications Specialist 1st Class Joshua Wall paints an octopus mural in the Ford's Media Department.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Gitte Schirrmacher

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.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Connor Loessin/US Navy

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.

Caption by / Photo by MC3 Kiana Raines/US Navy

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

Caption by / Photo by Chris Delano/US Navy

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

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

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

Caption by / Photo by Kiana Raines/US Navy

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.

Caption by / Photo by MCSN Cathrine Mae O. Campbell

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.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Gitte Schirrmacher

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.

Caption by / Photo by MCSA Joshua Murray/US Navy

Here, sailors say a blessing during an observance of Passover 2017 aboard the ship.

Caption by / Photo by MC1(SW) Cory Rose/US Navy

Sailors aboard the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford man the rails as the ship returns to port on April 14, 2017.

Manning the rails is a centuries-old sailing tradition where the crew lines up in full uniform along the edges of the ship as a method of salute. The idea is to make the most impressive possible display of the ship's manpower.

Caption by / Photo by MC2 Ryan Litzenberger

On March 2, 2017, President Donald Trump took a tour of the ship at Newport News Shipbuilding and announced plans to lift Obama-era limits on military spending and put more money into the over-budget program.

"After years of budget cuts that have impaired our defense, I am calling for one of the largest defense-spending increases in history," Trump said. "And by eliminating the sequester and the uncertainty it creates, we will make it easier for the Navy to plan for the future."

Caption by / Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Trump toured the carrier with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

"This carrier and the new ships of the Ford Class will expand the ability of our nation to carry out vital missions on the oceans to project American power in distant lands," Trump said. "Hopefully, too, it is power we don't have to use, but if we do, they're in big, big trouble."

Caption by / Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries

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

Caption by / Photo by John Whalen for Huntington Ingalls Industries

"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 US territory wherever she sails. She will represent her namesake, a man who embodied integrity, honor and courage."

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

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.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Oxley for Huntington Ingalls Industries
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