Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division has launched the US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, John F Kennedy (CVN 79), into the water for the first time.

The nuclear-powered carrier was launched into the James River for the first time from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Dry Dock 12 on 16 December.

The ship was then moved to the shipyard’s Pier 3 with the help of six tugboats. It is set to undergo further outfitting and testing at the pier.

John F Kennedy programme director Mike Butler said: “This move is significant in that it represents a shift in focus from erecting the ship in dock to final completion and outfitting at the pier.

“It is also a testament to the amazing teamwork I see every day between Newport News Shipbuilding and the navy as we work together to build Kennedy with valuable first-of-class lessons from the Ford.”

The latest phase of construction on the ship will involve work for a period of two and a half years.

Work will include completion of berthing and mess areas and the testing of distributive, mechanical and combat systems.

John F Kennedy was christened earlier this month during a ceremony at the Newport News Shipbuilding division.

The newest Gerald R Ford-class ship is the second aircraft carrier named for former US President John F Kennedy.

HII expects to deliver the vessel to the US Navy in 2022.