By Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, Program Executive Officer, Aircraft Carriers
Today, December 1st, USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) will inactivate and leave the Navy’s active carrier force forever. The inactivation of CVN 65 is not just a milestone for the Navy, it marks both the end of an era of a legendary ship and the start of a new era for Naval Aviation with the introduction of the GERALD R. FORD Class. USS ENTERPRISE, although the oldest ship in the fleet, performed the same Naval Aviation Strike Operations and Air Wing support as the newest aircraft carriers.
USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) will continue to serve on as more than $100 million of her equipment is reused and installed aboard NIMITZ and FORD class aircraft carriers. Seven ships have borne the name ENTERPRISE, and CVN 65 or “Big E” is a legend in itself as the most decorated warship in U.S. history. Pivotal in every U.S. conflict since its commissioning, the first nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise changed the future of naval aviation. I had the privilege of serving aboard ENTERPRISE, being Program Manager at PEO Carriers for the long transition of the last NIMITZ class carrier USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH (CVN 77), and am now the PEO responsible for the new GERALD R. FORD Class. I am proud to see the Enterprise tradition of bringing unprecedented innovation and striking power to the fleet being continued in our newest class.
GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) is currently under construction and will replace ENTERPRISE when she delivers. Just a few weeks from now her island will be added to the flight deck, and we expect to christen and launch her in late 2013. Her mission will remain unchanged, but with advances in technology such as a new reactor plant, propulsion system, electric plant, electromagnetic catapults, advanced arresting gear, machinery control, and integrated warfare systems, she will carry it out with greater lethality, survivability, joint interoperability, and at reduced operating and maintenance cost to taxpayers. Improvements to the flight deck configuration, weapons elevators, and refueling stations will bring more warfighting power.
Today’s Nimitz-class carriers can routinely generate 120 combat sorties per day, while Ford class carriers will be able to generate 33 percent more sorties per day—160 sorties, and more than 270 sorties per day for short periods of high-tempo operations. The FORD class also brings quality-of-life improvements for our Sailors such as designated fitness space, consolidated more than 600 billets, reduce maintenance, improve operational availability and capability, and reduce total ownership cost over its 50-year life by $4 billion compared with Nimitz-class carriers. It’s important to remember why the Navy chose to build a class of ship that will have a lifespan of 94 years and remain in service until 2110. The FORD class will deliver increased capability—at significantly reduced operating costs—and will remain at the forefront of a long-standing approach to countering threats and providing U.S. military presence in support of a wide variety of security objectives. Just as the “Big E” did when she was delivered 51 years ago, the FORD class represents a true “leap-ahead” ship that will be the centerpiece of U.S. naval power for the rest of the 21st century, proudly carrying on the tradition and legacy of ENTERPRISE.