The US Navy has accepted the delivery of its first $12.9bn Ford-class aircraft carrier, the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), in Newport News, Virginia, following the successful completion of sea acceptance trials.

The carrier had been under construction since November 2009 at Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding’s dry dock.

Newport News Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Carrier Construction vice-president Rolf Bartschi said: “On behalf of our shipbuilders, I can say we are all proud to have been a part of the Gerald R. Ford construction programme.

“This great ship will serve our nation for the next 50 years, and will offer our navy and sailors the most technologically advanced platform to carry out their missions.”

USS Gerald R. Ford is the first aircraft carrier to join the US Navy fleet since the delivery of USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) in 2009.

The Ford-class vessel was designed to replace the navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and will be able to operate with a smaller crew than previous models. It is also expected to provide $4bn in total ownership cost savings for the US Navy.

The CVN 78 aircraft carrier features an electromagnetic aircraft launch system and advanced arresting gear, and is equipped with a new nuclear power plant that can generate three times more electricity than compared to the preceding vessel classes.

"This great ship will serve our nation for the next 50 years, and will offer our navy the most technologically advanced platform to carry out their missions."

USS Gerald R. Ford's design allows for the possibility of quick upgrades with new capabilities over the course of its projected 50-year service life.

The carrier will be commissioned into active service in mid-2017, and is expected to be operational by 2020 after achieving initial operational capability.

It is set to enter a 'shakedown' period following commissioning, and will conduct many at-sea events to allow crew members to train and familiarise themselves with the ship's systems.

Additionally, a planned deferred work will be carried out, and any potential technical issues will be addressed during in-port periods.

Image: Huntington Ingalls Industries delivered the first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) to the US Navy. Photo: courtesy of Matt Hildreth / HII.