Newport News Shipbuilding hits 90 percent structural milestone on new aircraft carrier

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The Newport News Shipbuilding division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has completed 90 percent of the structural work on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
Shipbuilders added three units to the ship in late December. Two of the units were sponsons, structures that project from the side of the aircraft carrier hull and provide space for flight deck operations.

One of the sponsons was 140 feet long and weighed 391 metric tons—making it one of the largest sponsons to be erected. In addition, shipbuilders installed 3 million feet of cable of the estimated total 10 million feet to be installed.

“The entire construction team has done a great job in reaching the 90 percent structural completion milestone,” Rolf Bartschi, the shipyard’s vice president of CVN 78 carrier construction, said in a statement.  “All of our shipbuilders take great pride in seeing the flight deck take shape and in the work they have accomplished …”

Gerald R. Ford is being built using modular construction. During this process, smaller sections of the ship are welded together to form large structural units, equipment is installed, and the large units are lifted into the dry dock. Of the nearly 500 structural lifts needed to complete the ship, 446 have been accomplished. The lifts are done using the shipyard’s 1,050-metric ton gantry crane, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

Gerald R. Ford represents the next-generation class of aircraft carriers. The first-in-class ship features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, improved weapons movement, an enhanced flight deck capable of increased aircraft sortie rates and growth margin for future technologies. Ford has been under construction since November 2009. The ship is scheduled to launch in 2013.

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