[VIDEO] Inside the USS Ford, America’s Newest Aircraft CarrierPosted: March 22, 2014
Under construction in Virginia, this floating city is more powerful than any carrier that has come before.
Newport News, Va. — Joe Pappalardo writes: U.S. Navy Capt. John Meier wants the USS Ford, the first of the United States’ new class of aircraft carrier, to be completed by March 2016. Later that year his term as the ship’s commanding officer will end, and his replacement will be the first to take the vessel (CVN-78) out on the water under its own power. “So I have a vested interest in keeping the ship on schedule, and not only for the Navy and the nation’s sake,” he says.
A trip to the Newport News Shipbuilding, where the Ford is being constructed, makes it clear that aircraft carriers are not delivered, gift wrapped, to the Navy. They are built one compartment at a time. There are 2500 compartments in the USS Ford. Right now the Navy “owns” about 10 percent of them. There are about 800 Navy personnel working here already. The 3D blueprint used to convert sheets of steel into a vessel is now creating a floating warship. Shipyard officials and Navy officers recently gave PopMech an exclusive walk through the Ford. Wandering around the ship overwhelms the senses, with workers hammering, painting, wiring, and welding at every turn. Touring the ship is also a workout. You’re ducking dangling power cords, stepping over thick air hoses, sliding past workers hauling all manner of gear, and climbing metal ladders wrapped with grip tape.
The Ford is the first of its class—and the first new carrier designed from scratch since the 1960s. It’s a $14 billion nuclear-powered city, home to more than 4000 sailors and naval airmen. The ship will operate with 800 fewer crewmen than current carriers, thanks to an emphasis on a more sensible design and automation. This ethos is evident in the layout and the opened guts of the unfinished ship.