Tugboats maneuver the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) into the James River. US Navy
The massive USS Gerald R. Ford will head out to sea for builders' trials next month in a critical test before the US Navy intends to commission the ship later this year, USNI News reports.
The Ford will improve on the Navy's Nimitz-class carriers with a rearranged flight deck, improved launching and landing systems, and a nuclear power plant with outsized capabilities that can integrate future technologies such as railguns and lasers.
The Ford's commissioning will bring the count of full-sized carriers to a whopping 11 for the United States — more than the rest of the world combined.
The ship will sail out for a test of its most basic functions like navigation and communications, as well as a test of its nuclear-powered propulsion plant.
Its most advanced features, like its electromagnetic catapults for launching bomb- and fuel-laden jets from the deck, will not undergo testing.
A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, bottom, compared with a Ford-class carrier, top. Business Insider
The Ford, like almost any large first-in-class defense project, has encountered substantial setbacks and challenges as the Navy and contractors attempt to bring next-generation capabilities to the US's aircraft carriers. Notably, the Navy has expressed doubts about the advanced arresting gear, which helps speeding planes land quickly and gently, saying it may scrap the program in favor of the older system used on Nimitz-class carriers.