Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division hoisted the last piece of primary structure onto the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier 'Gerald R. Ford'.
The lift was the last of 162 superlifts and brings more than three years of structural erection work to a close.
Susan Ford Bales, the ship's sponsor and daughter of the late President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, was unable to participate in the construction milestone but wrote a letter of appreciation to shipbuilders.
"Your final superlift for the carrier might seem to be just a part of an ordinary work day at the shipyard, but this superlift is anything but ordinary," she wrote. "Completing the structure of the Ford is a significant achievement and a shining example of the extraordinary skills of you shipbuilders. It also brings us one step closer to delivery of the carrier to the Navy and honoring Dad's remarkable legacy of service to our nation as a naval officer in World War II and as commander-in-chief."
The unit is the forward end of one of the ship's catapults, which are used to launch aircraft from the ship. Weighing 66 metric tons, the unit is 75 feet long and comprises four steel sections. Gerald R. Ford is being built using modular construction, a process where smaller sections of the ship are welded together to form large structural units, equipment is installed, and the large units are lifted into the dry dock using the shipyard's 1,050-metric ton gantry crane, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
"Although the unit itself is relatively small, it is an enormous achievement in the life of this aircraft carrier and in our journey to christen and launch CVN 78 this fall," said Rolf Bartschi, NNS' vice president, CVN 78 carrier construction. "I am extremely proud of the hard work and commitment demonstrated by our shipbuilders who have made this important accomplishment possible."