Meet the US Navy's new $13 billion aircraft carrier
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 was officially commissioned on July 22, 2017.
Here's everything we know about both ships so far...and it's pretty eye-popping.
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 to begin its trials.
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.
The official commissioning
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.
Saluting the commander in chief
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.
Bringing the Ford to life
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.
The Ford's trials will continue through 2021
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.
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.
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.
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 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 ...
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 US carrier to be designed using such computerized techniques.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inside the steel foundry
Newport News Shipbuilding operates its own on-site foundry.
Here, workers are casting steel anchor bolsters for the Kennedy.
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.
Loading the missiles
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mooring by rifle
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.
Keeping an eye on the sky
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.
Controlling the ship
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.
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).
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.
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.
A switch back to steam?
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."
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.
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.
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.
Lowering the lower bow unit
Shipbuilders lower the 680-metric-ton lower bow unit onto the Gerald R. Ford.
Finishing off the keel
Workers join the lower bow unit to the keel of the USS Gerald R. Ford in May 2012.
A cross-sectioned carrier
Here, workers prepare the cross-sectioned Gerald R. Ford for the addition of its 787-metric-ton upper bow unit.
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.
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.
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.
Giving a tour to the VIPs
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sweeping up a foamy mess
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.
The Rainbow Sideboys
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Final assembly platen
An assembled portion of the John F. Kennedy sits on the final assembly platform.
Art inside the warship
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.
...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.
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.
A trough of food
Culinary Specialist Seaman Antoria Major prepares a meal for sailors inside the galley of the Gerald R. Ford.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Passover on the Ford
Here, sailors say a blessing during an observance of Passover 2017 aboard the ship.
A tradition that dates back to 1596
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.
President Trump visits the USS Ford for the first time
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."
"Big, big trouble" for America's enemies
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."
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.
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.
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 US territory wherever she sails. She will represent her namesake, a man who embodied integrity, honor and courage."
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.
The aircraft carrier pulls into Naval Station Norfolk for the first time in April 2017. It will soon be upstaged; the next Ford class ship, the John F. Kennedy, is due in 2020.
Manning the rails
Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. in July 2017.
That is one huge chain
Sailors polish the capstone inside the ship's forecastle. That's the massive anchor chain in the foreground.
2015 missile system test
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Shelby Edson and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Lawrence Batcheller test a rolling airframe missile launching system in 2015.
Royal wedding, or carrier christening?
How many people does it take to christen an aircraft carrier? Well: This many.
USS Gerald R Ford CVN 78 Shaft Fitting in Machine Shop
A propeller and shaft for the aircraft carrier Gerald R Ford CVN 78 undergo fitting opertions at the Newport News Shipbuilding machine shop 5/22/2012.