The Ford is the first new carrier design to enter the fleet in 40 years and represents a significant technology jump from the Nimitz-class ships now at sea. Ford is steam-free, using its nuclear reactors to generate electricity that is distributed through its 1,092-foot hull for everything from heating water to launching planes.
The simplified system and other advances allows Ford to operate with 700 fewer sailors than existing carriers.
Her catapults, which blast planes off carrier decks at flight speed, are driven by an electromagnetic engine — something that was science fiction not long ago. Ford is also ready to host future weapons, including magnetic cannons and lasers that are under development.
The new carrier is expected to stay in service for 50 years.
It is named after the nation’s only president to lead the country without facing a national election. A leading Republican lawmaker, Ford became president in 1974 after Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon were forced from office by scandal.
“The Gerald R. Ford, designated CVN 78, honors the late president who guided the nation through the end of the Vietnam War and the Bicentennial of American Independence,” the Navy said in a news release. “President Ford served aboard USS Monterey (CVL-26) in the Pacific during World War II, and was the first President to serve aboard an aircraft carrier.”
The Obama administration has pushed for keeping a large navy despite defense cuts that will carve $1 trillion from Pentagon spending over 10 years. The big fleet fits into the military’s new Pacific focus, which pivots attention away from Europe and the Middle East.
“The christening of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) marks an important milestone in both the life of this ship and the development of our future fleet; a fleet built on the innovation that makes our Navy and Marine Corps team the finest expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in a statement.