“I think we’ll get the ship delivered in the April – May timeframe,” Vice Adm. Thomas Moore said at National Harbor just south of the nation’s capital on Monday.
Specifically, the ship will begin builder’s sea trials, which can last a couple of days or a few weeks. Navy acceptance trials would be the last step before the vessel is commissioned.
The sea trials are used to bring together government officials, the ship builder and the ship’s eventual owner, which in this case is the US Navy. Upon gathering data on the ship’s maneuverability in the open sea, officials can determine whether the ship meets the specifications initially requested by the Navy.
That’s no small feat for this ship: It has two nuclear reactors on board for the ship’s propulsion mechanism. Newport News Shipbuilding claims nuclear-powered supercarriers comprise “one of the most complex things ever made by man.” Ford-class carriers, of which the USS Gerald Ford is the first, also have more than double the electrical storage capacity of previous aircraft carriers.
Navy strategists ordered the construction of the Ford-class supercarriers as a “force structure replacement” for the USS Enterprise, but these carriers can launch 33 percent more sorties per hour than the current Nimitz-class carriers.
The armed service’s specifications for Ford-class carriers include an Evolved Sea Sparrow missile system, radar and search equipment, an electromagnetic jet launching system, weapons elevators and a greater role for software to reduce the number of personnel required to operate the ship.
The Ford will be one of the Navy’s “forward” warships used to provide humanitarian aid, project power and act as general deterrence, according to the Navy.
The Ford will eventually join 10 existing Nimitz-class US Navy carriers sailing the seas.
The Navy plans to keep the ship operational for 60 years, into the 2070s.