Trump hails American military might at USS Gerald R Ford commissioning

US president Donald Trump has declared that the most advanced aircraft carrier to join the US Navy, the USS Gerald R Ford, will cause America's enemies to "shake with fear" whenever they see it.

Mr Trump gave a speech at the commissioning ceremony for the 100,000-tonne, 12.9 billion dollar (£9.9 billion) warship, in which he praised the US military and the American labour that went into building it.

Mr Trump said at the event in Norfolk, Virginia: "I hereby place United States Ship Gerald R Ford in commission. May God bless and guide this warship and all who shall sail in her."

He was followed by Susan Ford Bales, the ship's sponsor and daughter of the 38th president, whom the ship honours.

She said: "There is no-one, absolutely no-one, who would be prouder of the commissioning of this mighty ship than the president of the United States, Gerald R Ford.

"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.'"

Mr Trump arrived aboard the carrier's steamy flight deck by the Marine One presidential helicopter and was greeted by defence secretary Jim Mattis and other officials.

Mr Trump, who visited the carrier in March to promote his plans for a military build-up, told Time magazine this year that the Navy should revert to using steam catapults to launch fighter jets because some of the state-of-the-art systems and technology aboard the USS Ford "costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it's no good".

Construction on the USS Ford started in 2009 and was to be completed by September 2015 at a cost of 10.5 billion dollars.

The US Navy has attributed the delays and budget overruns to the ship's state-of-the-art systems and technology, including electromagnetic launch systems for jets and drones that will replace steam catapults.

The warship also has a smaller island that sits farther back on the ship to make it easier and quicker to refuel, re-arm and relaunch planes, and a nuclear power plant designed to allow cruising speeds of more than 30 knots and operation for 20 years without refuelling.

The vessel completed sea trials in April but still faces a battery of tests at sea before becoming operational and ready for deployment, work that is expected to cost nearly 780 million dollars (£600 million) and take more than four years to complete, according to auditors.

The USS Ford is named after the country's 38th president, who rose to the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy during the Second World War. After military service, Mr Ford was elected to the House of Representatives, serving Michigan until he was tapped by then-president Richard Nixon to become vice president.

Mr Ford became president after Mr Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal.

Docked at Naval Station Norfolk, the USS Ford will eventually house about 2,600 sailors, 600 fewer than the previous generation of aircraft carriers. The Navy says that will save more than four billion dollars (£3 billion) over the ship's 50-year lifespan.

The vessel was built at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.


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