USS Enterprise (CVN-80) forms the third "supercarrier" of the new Gerald Ford-class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the United States Navy. The vessel was named in December of 2012 and follows some eight other USN vessels to carry the "Enterprise" name. Construction will begin around 2018 by Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding of Newport, Virginia. Commissioning is planned for sometime in 2025 or later. USS Enterprise (CVN-80) will join lead ship USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) and sister-ship USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) once she raises her flag. Both remain under construction as of March 2014.
Once commissioned, USS Enterprise (CVN-80) is expected to relieve the aging USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), launched in 1975 and commissioned in 1977.
As designed, the USS Enterprise will feature a displacement of 100,000 tons and length measuring 1,100 feet with a beam of 134 feet and draught to 39 feet. Propulsion will come from a pair of A1B series nuclear reactors (of all-new design for improved power and efficiency) which will grant her essentially unlimited range and provide speeds in excess of 30 knots in ideal conditions. The listed shelf-life of the nuclear reactors is between twenty and twenty-five years. The vessel's entire complement will number 4,660 personnel including a large air wing. Construction of the vessel will also incorporate radar-reducing features.
The general profile of USS Enterprise will follow tried-and-true USN tradition with a starboard side island superstructure and stern-to-portside landing area. Catapults will be featured over the forecastle and to portside. The island superstructure will reside somewhat aft of amidships to allow for a clearer, unobstructed forward flight deck - presenting something of a new challenge to incoming naval aviators.
The air wing itself will support more than seventy-five aircraft of various types including fixed-wing and rotary-wing systems. This will allow the USS Enterprise to retain the capabilities enjoyed by many American carriers over the years, able to mount air defense, strike, rescue and enforcement sorties anywhere in the world. Resupply at-sea can be handled by vessels or helicopter and fixed-wing transports. The flight deck will measure 1,092 feet by 256 feet and feature multiple elevators to access the hangar deck below. An Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) will replace the steam catapults of old. The arresting gear will also be of an all-new design. There will also be improved support for launching Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), a noticeably emerging trend in naval warfare.
Point self-defense will be through a digital fire control system with management of RIM-162 ESSM and RIM-116 RAM anti-aircraft missile launchers. Close-in defense will be through 2 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs).
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