The USS Kennedy Will Operate F-35s Straight Out of the Shipyard

Kyle Mizokami
·2-min read

From Popular Mechanics

  • The aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy won’t require an upgrade process to operate the new F-35C fighter.

  • The carrier is 76 percent structurally complete and is on track for a 2024 delivery to the U.S. Navy.

  • The USS Kennedy will be the second aircraft carrier named after the 35th President of the United States.

The future aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy is on track for 2024, and unlike the previous ship in her class, she won’t require returning to the shipyard later in order to fly the F-35C fighter.

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The U.S. Navy is paying to have the Kennedy's builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), deliver the ship whole and capable of flying the new fighter jet from the outset.

The USS Kennedy, U.S. Naval Institute News reports, is 76 percent structurally complete. Under a deal between the Navy and HII, the Navy will pay $315 million and accept the carrier in 2024, instead of 2022.

Unlike the previous ship in the class, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the USS Kennedy will be delivered with the necessary equipment to operate the F-35C fighter already baked in.

The Navy typically takes delivery of ships ready to go for their full mission set, but the simultaneous development of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter and the Ford-class carriers has meant that the lead ship, Ford, must eventually return to the builder in order to operate the new jet. The new deal means the Kennedy will be delivered in 2024, rather than 2022, but will skip the return trip.

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The F-35C is the carrier takeoff and landing version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The aircraft takes off and lands normally, but features strengthened landing gear to accommodate the stresses of takeoffs and landings from an aircraft carrier flight deck. The F-35C also features a larger wing and slightly longer range than other versions.

The USS Kennedy will eventually replace the USS Nimitz, which would serve for 49 years before retirement under the new plan.

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