USS Gerald R. Ford: New aircraft carrier with 25 percent more flights per day

USS Gerald R. Ford is the lead ship in the Navy's next class of more-efficient aircraft carriers. Christened Saturday, the USS Gerald R. Ford launches jets faster and relies on fewer crew members.

The Navy has christened its newest aircraft carrier, which will join the fleet in 2016.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the lead ship in the Navy's next class of aircraft carriers. It was christened Saturday at the Newport News shipyard where it was built.

The Ford class represents the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years. Among other things, it will be able to launch jets faster than previous aircraft carriers and will require fewer crew members. The Navy anticipates that having fewer crew members on board will save $4 billion over the ship's 50-year life span.

Former president Ford's daughter, Susan Bales Bord, is the ship's sponsor. She performed the ceremonial breaking of a bottle of American sparkling wine across the ship's bow Saturday.

The Ford class aircraft carrier has a five-acre flight deck and carries 75 aircraft. To achieve a smoother launch of the aircraft, the steam-powered catapult system has been replaced by an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), similar to the technology used to propel today's roller coasters, says Newport News Shipbuilding, the company building the ship.

The flight deck has been reconfigured with the flight command center, the island, moved 140 aft and three feet outboard of where the current carrier islands are located. The island is shorter in length, but stands 20 feet taller than previous aircraft carriers' islands. It also incorporates the latest technology in flat panel array radar systems and dual band radar, according to Newport.

As a result of these changes, the Ford class carrier will produce a 25 percent increase in flight missions per day, compared with the previous Nimitz class carrier, says Newport.

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