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A keel-laying ceremony for the Navy's first Ford-class aircraft carrier, Gerald R. Ford, (CVN 78) was held at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va. Nov. 14.
The ceremony celebrated not only the building of a new class of ship, but the life of the ship's namesake, former President Gerald R. Ford.
Susan Ford Bales, Ford's daughter, was the ship's sponsor. Bales' initials were welded into a metal plate that will be permanently affixed to the ship.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as the ship's sponsor, and on behalf of President Gerald R. Ford," said Bales. "I hereby declare that the shipbuilders of Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and their patriotism, and commitment to excellence are and shall forever be truly and fairly part of the spirit of the USS Gerald R. Ford."
Ford-class aircraft carriers have some significant design changes including a larger flight deck, improvements in weapons and material handling, a new propulsion plant design that requires fewer personnel to operate and maintain, and a new smaller island that has been pushed aft.
Technological advances in the field of electromagnetic have led to the development of an electromagnetic aircraft launching system, and an advanced arresting gear. An integrated warfare system has been developed to support flexibility in adapting the infrastructure of the ship to future mission roles.
"These and other changes mean that this carrier, piloted by the Navy officers and crew who will one day sail her into harm's way, will be more capable, more flexible, and better able to protect America and the American way of life," said Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding President Mike Petters.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin served as keynote speaker and distinguished guests in attendance included the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Glenn Nye, and the Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Adm. Kirkland H. Donald.
On Jan. 3, 2007 an announcement was made that CVN-78, the Navy's newest aircraft carrier would be named after Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States. The ship is scheduled to enter the U.S. Naval Fleet in 2015.