Topping Off a Carrier: GERALD R FORD (CVN 78) Island Landing (pictorial)


Building a full-sized, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is one of mankind’s most complex achievements, and there’s only one place in the world that does it: Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia. The first ship of an entirely new class of carriers, the GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78), is building at the yard, and on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, shipbuilders performed one of the more visually significant moves during the ship’s construction — that of moving the pre-fabricated island superstructure onto the flight deck. 

According to Newport News: “The landing of the island, the ship’s command center for flight deck operations, is a milestone in the modular construction of this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. This step is part of a lengthy process in which smaller sections of the ship are welded together to form large structural units and then lifted into the dry dock. The 60-foot long, 30-foot wide island will be hoisted onto the flight deck using Newport News Shipbuilding’s 1,050-metric ton gantry crane.”

A crowd of invited guests, including ship’s sponsor Susan Ford Bales, watched as the structure was swung over the ship and carefully placed into position. Just before the island was lowered the final few inches, Bales and shipyard and U.S. Navy officials placed command coins and mementos under the structure, where they’ll remain for the life of the ship.

Another ceremony will be held at the shipyard in November, when the carrier’s christening ceremony is scheduled.  The ship is to be delivered in 2015, and operate for another 50 years.

Unless otherwise noted, all these shots are screen grabs from the company’s webcast of the event.

The island superstructure seen a few weeks before the big move. (Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding photo)

Cleaned up and decked out in festive bunting, the structure begins its lift.

The structure begins to lift clear of the graving dock.

The island moving toward the ship. (Ricky Thompson photo, Newport News Shipbuilding)

The gantry crane begins to move the island over the ship.

Shipbuilders stand by as the island is lined up on its marks. Note the small blue carpet at left, where Bales will kneel to place mementos under the island -- giving an indication of how precisely the structure will be placed.

Down she comes . . .

Eyeballing the alignment.

Just a little off . . .

That last eleven inches can be tricky.

She's getting there...

All the gantry crane operator's skills came into play.

Just about got it . . .

Now hold it right there!

Susan Ford Bales placing mementos of her father and ship's namesake.

Mementos and command coins in place.

The media records the historic moment.

Lower away . . .

That's it. Slacken lines.



Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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