The US Navy has announced F-35C modifications to the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) under a contract structure now in place to deliver the second Gerald R. Ford Class aircraft carrier, employing a single-phase acquisition strategy, instead of two-phase, as originally planned.
In early February, James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, approved a request by the program executive officer for aircraft carriers, Rear Admiral James Downey, for a single-phase delivery strategy that would deliver CVN 79 from the current construction period with its warfare system and F-35C capability.
Geurts explained, "Shifting to single phase and incorporating the F-35C modifications will enable the delivery of a more capable and lethal carrier. Initiating this work now will build on the lessons learned from USS Gerald R. Ford to maintain the optimal construction timeline for the shipyard and to avoid inefficiencies."
When future USS John F. Kennedy entered construction in June 2015 at Huntington-Ingalls Industries–Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS), the Navy pursued the two-phase delivery approach to align construction with development of the enterprise air surveillance radar (EASR) suite. EASR is replacing the dual-band radar deployed on the lead ship of the class, USS Gerald R. Ford.
"From the shipbuilder’s and Navy’s perspective, this is the most efficient and effective way to get this capability quickest into the hands of our warfighters," Geurts added.
Captain Philip Malone, program manager for the John F. Kennedy, is excited about the shift to the single-phase delivery and the path ahead, saying, "Everyone, from shipyard workers to the design engineers to the crew, is looking forward to fully incorporating the new warfare system and the F-35C modifications.
"The US Navy and the shipbuilder have made a commitment to deliver JFK in 2024, and the team is delivering on that promise every day."
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded a modification to the construction contract for the second ship in the Ford class of aircraft carriers to HII-NNS 2 November. The award delivers the CVN 79 from the current construction period with its warfare system installed and incorporates F-35C Joint Strike Fighter modifications.
This contract modification supports legislative requirements for CVN 79 to be capable of deploying with the F-35C Lightning II long-range strike fighter before the ship completes its post-shakedown availability. Congress had mandated the change in Section 124 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 (Public Law 116-92).
USS John F. Kennedy was christened and launched last December and is completing system construction, outfitting, and testing pierside in Newport News.
Like it's namesake, the USS John F Kennedy is billed as the next-generation of leadership, with the 100,000-ton behemoth powered by two advanced, A1B nuclear reactors supporting a top speed in excess of 30 knots – ensuring that whenever and wherever called upon the Kennedy will be ready to project American military presence and dominance.
The Kennedy reflects the US Navy's insistence on maintaining a fleet of large, advanced, nuclear-powered vessels as the centrepiece of the US Navy, incorporating next-generation technologies ranging from unmanned aerial platforms, through to advanced sensor suites, the Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter and the yet to be determined Next Generation Air Dominance fighter to replace the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
The John F. Kennedy has been under construction at its Newport News location since 2015 and is the second aircraft carrier to honour former president John F. Kennedy for his service to the nation, both as a naval officer and as the 35th president of the US.