Say Hello To America’s Newest Aircraft Service, the USS John F. Kennedy

  • The USS John F. Kennedy was christened last weekend in Newport News, Virginia.
  • The ship is the second Ford-class aircraft carrier.
  • Although the ship was christened today, Kennedy won’t join the fleet until the 2020s.

    On Saturday, former President John F. Kennedy’s daughter presided over the naming ceremony for America’s newest aircraft carrier. Former first daughter Caroline Kennedy, brandishing a magnum bottle of champagne, dedicated the second aircraft carrier, named after her father, to a former naval officer who served during World War II.

    The future USS Kennedy is the second ship to bear the President’s name and the second Ford-class aircraft carrier.

    The future USS Kennedy in dry dock, October 2019.

    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero

    The ceremony was held at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipyard in Virginia. Kennedy is a member of the new Ford-class aircraft carriers that will replace the Nimitz-class carriers currently serving in the US Navy. Kennedy will replace the Nimitz in the early to mid-2020s. The USS Nimitz is the Navy’s oldest airline and has been in continuous service since May 1975.

    The major airline is not yet officially part of the US Navy. Kennedy’s dry dock was recently filled with water so the ship could swim on its own. Although the ship is structurally complete, it is basically empty inside, so shipbuilders will spend the next few years equipping it. Then there are shipbuilding trials where contractors take the ship to sea to test important equipment.

    If the contractor’s attempts go smoothly, the Navy will finally put the airline into service in the early 2020s. The ship is initially known as the Pre-Commissioning Unit Kennedy and will only receive the US ship title after commissioning. The Navy is going through its own processes next, and trouble barring any problems, Kennedy will go on his first patrol shortly thereafter.

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    The original USS John F. Kennedy.

    US NavyGetty Images

    PCU Kennedy is 1,092 feet long and displaces 100,000 tons when fully loaded. The ship itself is in many ways similar to the US aviation companies of the last sixty years and can launch up to four aircraft at the same time, an extensive hangar for aircraft storage and maintenance, a nuclear reactor, and self-defense weapons and missiles.

    However, the Ford class is equipped with an aircraft electromagnetic launch system, a new aircraft landing system, an improved nuclear reactor and an improved radar system. The Navy claims the Ford-class will be able to generate 33 percent more aircraft operations for less money, saving $ 4 billion over the life of the aircraft carrier compared to older Nimitz ships.

    But the real star of the aircraft carrier is the future air wing. Kennedy will embark approximately 70 aircraft, divided into squadrons and compartments. Each air wing consists of four strike squadrons with a total of 44 fighters. Currently these squadrons are manned by F / A-18E and F / A-18F Superhornet fighters.

    There is also an electronic attack squadron with five EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, an airborne early warning squadron with four E-2 Hawkeye early warning aircraft, a helicopter sea combat squadron with 8 MH-60S Seahawks and a helicopter sea strike squadron with 11 MH-60R Seahawks and two C-2A Greyhound Carrier transports.

    Kennedy will serve for 40-50 years and experience significant changes during his life. At some point, likely in the late 2020s, Kennedy will upgrade its strike squadrons from four Super Hornets squadrons to a mix of two Super Hornets and two F-35C Joint Strike Fighter squadrons. The F-35C is the Navy’s first fifth generation fighter and the first stealth fighter to go to sea. Around that time, the ship is also likely to take on board unmanned MQ-25 Stingray air tankers, extending the range of the strike fighters. At some point, the ship is likely to trade Evolved Sea Sparrow and RAM anti-missile missiles for short-range defensive lasers, though the timetable for doing so is much less clear.

    USS Nimitz conducts training exercises

    The USS Nimitz conducts training exercises with a US Navy F-35C Lightning II strike fighter.

    US NavyGetty Images

    Kennedy cruises in the wake of his predecessor Ford. The USS Ford encountered significant problems during construction and continues to have problems after commissioning. Problems with the ship’s electromagnetic launch system, advanced fishing gear, and especially advanced weapon lifts, caused long-term delays and cost overruns of hundreds of millions. Only four of the ship’s eleven electromagnetically powered weapons lifts are still in operation today. Internally, Kennedy has a very similar layout to the Ford, and if the issues at Ford are not fixed, they will likely get in the way of Kennedy too.

    The US Navy will eventually build ten or more Ford-class vehicles. The next ship is called the USS Enterprise.

    Source: US Naval Institute News

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