Navy Names Newest Carrier After President Ford

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2007 - With flags around the nation still at half staff in memory of the late President Gerald R. Ford, Vice President Richard B. Cheney called today's naming of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier in Ford's honor an even more fitting tribute because it looks to the future.

Speaking today at the Pentagon naming ceremony for the ship, Cheney joined Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter and other officials and servicemembers in naming the first of the new CVN-21 class of aircraft carrier the USS Gerald R. Ford.

The new class will replace the USS Enterprise and CVN-68 class carriers.

When USS Gerald R. Ford enters the Navy fleet in seven or eight years, it and its sister ships "will help ensure the sea power of the United States for the next half century," the vice president said.

Winter described the capability the new carriers will bring to the fleet. "This fleet of the most technologically advanced aircraft carriers in the world will be the Navy's premier forward asset for crisis response and principal platforms in providing early, decisive striking power in a major combat operation," he told the audience.

The new carriers will be able to generate 25 percent more aircraft sorties than current carriers, generate three times the electricity, and include an improved, fully integrated warfare system and other new design technologies, he said.

"CVN-21 is an investment in our future, and the Department of the Navy is urgently moving forward to turn our plans into reality," Winter said.

Cheney described the technical marvel the USS Ford will present when it hits the high seas. "When completed, the USS Gerald R. Ford will be a sight to behold: 100,000 tons of American ingenuity and power, riding 20 stories above water level, about as long as the Empire State Building, and able to sail the oceans for 20 years without refueling," he said.

Winter said USS Ford and its sister carriers will send a message wherever they sail. "A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is a symbol recognized around the world," he said. "It represents American power. It is a reminder of America's global interests and global reach. It is, in the eyes of freedom-loving people everywhere, a safeguard in a troubled and dangerous world."

As an example, he noted the Jan. 11 announcement that President Bush had ordered an additional carrier strike group, the USS Stennis group, to the Middle East. "We do not expect this to be the last time the commander in chief will be turning to Navy carriers to respond immediately to a crisis far from our shores," Winter said.

Like Bush, Ford recognized the important capability carriers bring to the Navy, Cheney said. "He understood that protecting the American people required defending our interests in far-away places," he said. "He understood that, for our forces to be credible, they must be able to deploy wherever and whenever needed." This, he said, requires the power to sail the world's oceans and control the water's surface, the ocean depths and the skies overhead.

Winter called the naming of the first CVN-78 carrier after Ford a fitting way to honor the former president's service and recognize his deep, lifelong personal connection to aircraft carriers. "He served aboard a carrier during (World War II)," Winter said of Ford. "As president, he commanded carriers in the fleet. During his tenure as president, he also commissioned USS Nimitz, the first in its class of nuclear-powered carriers.

"No one would have appreciated more the honor of having a carrier named after him than President Ford," Winter said.

Susan Ford Bales, the late president's daughter, thanked the U.S. military for the tribute its members paid her father during his funeral services and expressed the family's pride in having an aircraft carrier named for him.

She recounted Ford's own words, when he knew Winter was considering naming a carrier for him, as expressed in a personal letter. "It is a source of indescribable pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name may be permanently associated with the valor and patriotism of the men and women of the United States Navy," Ford wrote shortly before his Dec. 26 death.

Betty Ford, Ford's widow, was not at today's ceremony but watched it from home on the Pentagon Channel, her daughter noted at the ceremony.
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