U.S. largest military shipbuilding company Huntington Ingalls landed the 588-ton island onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) during a ceremony on 29 May at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division.
The event coincided with the birthday of the ship’s namesake, former President John F. Kennedy.
“Landing the island is a key milestone in preparing the ship for launch in the fall,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. “Reaching this milestone on schedule demonstrates the significant lessons learned we are applying to this ship’s construction, as well as the strides we’ve made to use new technologies to gain efficiencies.”
The 588-ton island, which will serve as the command-and-control center for flight deck operations, is one of the last steel structures, known as a superlift, to be placed onto the ship, signifying that Kennedy is one step closer to being launched.
The ship is being built in sections with more outfitted equipment—valves, pipe, electrical panels, mounting studs, lighting, ventilation and other components—than any other aircraft carrier built at Newport News. The use of new technologies, including digital work instructions that provide shipbuilders digital 3-D data versus traditional paper drawings, has increased efficiency and productivity.
With the island, Kennedy is more than 90% structurally complete. The island stands 72 feet above the flight deck and is 56 feet long and 33 feet wide.
In keeping with the Navy tradition, Capt. Todd Marzano, the ship’s prospective commanding officer, placed his aviator wings underneath the island during the ceremony. This custom, known as mast-stepping, recognizes an ancient maritime custom of placing a coin at the base of a mast of a ship under construction to bring good fortune.
“It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be selected as the first commanding officer of the new aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, and I’m truly humbled to be joining such an impressive team of highly talented shipbuilders who have worked so hard to make this historic event possible,” Marzano said. “Landing the island on the flight deck is a significant construction milestone, bringing John F. Kennedy one very important step closer to being commissioned into the fleet, where its value to our nation cannot be overstated.”
Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s daughter, serves as the ship’s sponsor. She could not participate in today’s event but shared a 1964 silver Kennedy half dollar that Marzano placed under the island house.
“The island landing is an important milestone in the life of this ship,” Kennedy wrote in a letter. “I know how proud my father would be of the ship that will bear his name and the patriotism and dedication of all who sail in her.”
Boykin placed a Newport News Shipbuilding president’s coin, which was designed to recognize dedication, service and leadership—three qualities that the ship and its crew will demonstrate when they set sail in our nation’s defense, she explained.
The other ceremony participants—James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic; and Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers—also placed coins.
A time capsule containing all of items placed under the island will be welded into the ship at a later time.
Kennedy is scheduled to move from the dry dock to an outfitting berth in the fourth quarter of 2019, three months ahead of schedule. The ship’s christening is planned for later this year.
More than 4,500 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers from across the country are supporting the construction of Kennedy.