USS John F. Kennedy- Then and Now

As we continue to celebrate the centennial of Navy aircraft carriers and their enduring legacy to our national defense, it is important to recognize the unique attributes of two ships that share the name John F. Kennedy. While they are separated by time, their fighting spirit and unique circumstances within the context of their service speaks to the overall significance of aircraft carriers and their value to our nation.

The first USS John F. Kennedy (originally CVA 67, then CV 67) was the fourth and final ship of the Kitty Hawk-class of aircraft carriers. With her full length of 1,047 feet, and a total displacement of 87,000 tons, she was the last non-nuclear aircraft carrier put to sea during a period of uncertainty in the world.

Her keel was laid October 22, 1964, in Newport News, Virginia by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, just shy of the one-year mark of the death of her namesake. She was christened May 27, 1967, by President John F. Kennedy’s widow Jaqueline Kennedy and nine-year-old daughter -and the ship’s sponsor- Caroline Kennedy. USS John F. Kennedy commissioned September 7, 1968 and went to sea for the first time that same year.

Throughout 38 years of service, the ship experienced a decorated career of 18 official deployments and thousands of nautical miles in between. Most notably, she assisted in the maritime patrols of the Mediterranean and Middle East region during the 1970s and 1980s, participated in Operation Desert Shield, executed the first strike operations against Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm, and participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While she officially decommissioned from naval service on March 23, 2007, this is nowhere near the end of her legacy, nor that of President John F. Kennedy. The keel for the future USS John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, now returning as a Ford-class aircraft carrier, was laid very near where her predecessors was in Newport News, Virginia on August 22, 2015. Moreover, even though CVN 79 was eventually christened more than 52 years after CV 67, she was still christened and sponsored by the very same person as her forbearer- Caroline Kennedy.

The future USS John F. Kennedy (PCU 79) will be 1,106 feet, and have a total displacement of 100,000 tons, making her about 54 feet longer and about 17,000 tons more than CV 67. Again, like her predecessor, she is finishing up construction in Newport News before her delivery to the fleet.

The new technology and warfighting capabilities that the future USS John F. Kennedy will bring to the fleet will transform naval warfare, supporting a more capable and lethal forward-deployed U.S. naval presence. In an emerging era of strategic competition, CVN 79 will serve as the most agile and lethal combat platform globally, with improved systems that enhance interoperability among other platforms in the carrier strike group and alongside the naval forces of regional allies and partners. The Ford-class of aircraft carriers, as a whole, incorporates more than 23 new technologies spanning dramatic advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling, and aircraft launch systems. These innovations will support greater efficiencies on the flight deck and have the requisite ability to incorporate cutting-edge capabilities when compared to current Nimitz-class carriers.

As we continue forward with this next generation aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy will be ready to defend our interests far from our shores and across the world’s oceans. She will unboundedly experience a dynamic security environment over her 50+ year service life, yet with the spirit of CV 67 as her guide and as her namesake so notably said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

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USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) Commissioning

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