Trump to Deliver Keynote at USS Ford's Commissioning

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NORFOLK The aircraft carrier Pre Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford pulls into Naval Station Norfolk for the first time. The first-of-class ship- the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in 40 years-

The commissioning ceremony of the the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford.

"I hereby place United States Ship Gerald R. Ford in commission", Trump said after delivering a speech in which he praised the USA military and the American labor that went into building the 100,000 ton, $12.9 billion warship.

The $12.9 billion nuclear-powered warship weighs 100,000 tons, and stretches across 4.5 acres.

The vessel's commissioning will begin the planned phased replacement of the US Navy's current Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. During World War II, Ford attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy, serving on the light carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26). After undergoing testing and rigorous sea trials, the ship successfully completed the final "builder trials" and arrived at its home port of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on April 14, 2017.

"This is American craftsmanship at its biggest, at its best, at its finest", Trump said aboard the carrier earlier this year.

Mr. Trump used the occasion to call on Congress to complete the fiscal 2018 budget that would boost defense spending by about $54 billion, an increase of roughly 10 percent.

Susan Ford Bales, Ford's daughter and sponsor of the ship, was awarded the title of honorary naval aviator - becoming the first woman and 31st person overall to receive the distinction.

"I am honoured to give the command: 'Officers and crew of the United States Gerald R Ford, man our ship and bring her to life'".

Hundreds lined the pier below the freshly christened ship as government and Navy officials alike celebrated its completion, with the Navy band playing tunes like "God Bless America".

Trump was among a guest list that included Defense Secretary James Mattis, Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and members of Congress.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said: "The nation's going to be very proud of USS Gerald R. Ford". Ford almost fell from the ship's deck into frigid waters below and just narrowly missed becoming one of hundreds of casualties.

The Navy was granted a waiver as it waited for the USS Gerald Ford to be completed.

The Navy estimates the service branch will spend up to $43 billion on the construction of the first three Ford-class vessels to replace Nimitz-class carriers.

The Ford's propulsion and basic systems were tested during a first round of sea trials in recent months, but one major remaining hurdle will be to test the carrier's electromagnetic catapult's ability to launch actual aircraft.

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