Huntington Ingalls announced Monday that construction of the USS John F Kennedy is inching closer to the finish line. The USS Kennedy will eventually join the USS Gerald Ford as the first two Ford-class nuclear-powered ships in the US Navy's surface fleet.
In late March, the Congressional Research Service reported that the USS Kennedy is expected to be delivered in the fall of 2024 and that US lawmakers allocated the funding for the roughly 100,000-ton vessel in 2013. The carrier will eventually host up to 90 combat aircraft above and below deck at any given point in time.
Sam LaGrone, a USNI News editor who has tracked the Ford-class program for several years, told Sputnik Radio that "The biggest difference between the Ford and the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers of the previous generation is its ability to launch aircraft."
"The entire aircraft carrier is designed around the idea that it can launch 30 percent more aircraft during a particular period than the Nimitz-class," the journalist said. "That's kind of the central idea behind the Ford versus the Nimitz."
The advanced carrier features new technologies that are still in their infancy, such as electromagnetic launch mechanisms to boost fixed-wing planes during takeoff — and at a rapid clip no less. This is part of the impetus for the program itself, as the USNI News editor explained.
US President Donald Trump once vented to TIME Magazine about a conversation he'd had with a Navy official about his disappointment in the next-generation EMAL [electromagnetic aircraft launch] system, despite this component being one of the new ship's most important technological advances.
"You know the catapult is quite important. So I said ‘what is this?' ‘Sir, this is our digital catapult system.' He said well, ‘We're going to this because we wanted to keep up with modern [technology].' I said ‘You don't use steam anymore for catapult?' ‘No sir.' I said, ‘Ah, how is it working?' ‘Sir, not good. Not good. Doesn't have the power. You know the steam is just brutal. You see that sucker going and steam's going all over the place, there's planes thrown in the air,'" Trump said in a March 2017 interview with TIME.
"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,'" Trump recollected.
As it turns out, the Navy is sticking with EMALS or "digital," as Trump called it. After years of development delays, naval aviators on the USS Ford were literally jumping with joy after the first time the EMALS helped an F/A-18 liftoff from the ship.