Navy tradition dictates that each ship constructed for the Navy be honored by ceremonies on four historic occasions: keel laying, christening (or launching), commissioning, and decommissioning. George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) will be honored with the first of its historic occasions on Saturday, September 6, at Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, VA. The keel laying celebrates the laying of the first timber of a ship and can be traced back to the construction of early Navy ships. The present-day ceremony maintains the tradition, but has been modified because of updated materials, technology, and shipbuilding techniques. Following the ceremony, the former President Bush will initial a nameplate to authenticate the keel that will then be welded to it. President Bush will then announce, "the keel has been truly and fairly laid." Also participating in the ceremony will be Doro Bush Koch, the Ship's Sponsor and the daughter of former President Bush; the Honorable Hansford T. Johnson, Acting Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Vernon Clark, Chief of Naval Operations; the Honorable John Warner, U.S. Senator from Virginia
; Tom Schievelbein, President, Northrop Grumman Newport News; and Admiral James L. Holloway III (ret.), Chairman of the Naval Historical Foundation. As the tenth and final Nimitz-class carrier, George H. W. Bush will
stretch 1,092 feet, weigh 97,000 tons, and will be among the world's largest warships. Its top speed will exceed 30 knots and, with two nuclear reactors, it can operate for more than 20 years without refueling during its 50-year service life. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Newport News the CVN 77 construction contract in January 2001. A December 2002 ceremony marked the formal naming of CVN 77 after the former president and World War II Navy aviator
. The carrier will be delivered in 2008 and join the fleet in 2009.