Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The dry dock flooding of the under-construction aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy marked a building milestone as the ship heads to its Dec. 7 christening.
The carrier, whose keel was laid in 2015 at the Newport News, Va., shipyard of Huntington Ingalls Industries, was surrounded by 100 million gallons of water on Tuesday in a controlled process of slowly filling its dry dock with water, a landmark in its construction.
The flooding of the dry dock comes three months early, HII said, as the vessel gets under way on a schedule of tests and outfitting until 2022, when it will be delivered to the U.S. Navy for service.
"The flooding of the dry dock is truly a historic event in the construction of the ship and a special moment for the men and women who have worked to get the ship to the point," HHI program director Mike Butler said in a company press release.
"We have made remarkable progress with Kennedy's construction, and are pleased to get to this phase of construction three months ahead of the original schedule and fewer man hours. We look forward to the upcoming christening and launch as we prepare to start our testing program," Butler said.
Over 3,000 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers have been involved in the construction of the ship.
Known as CVN 79 prior to commissioning, the $13 billion ship is the second of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. Many of its systems, powered by steam on Nimitz-class carriers, are electrically powered.
The ship is designed to save the Navy $4 billion in total ownership cost over the its expected 50-year lifespan, with fewer overall components, an extended future drydock interval and ship-wide air conditioning.
Kennedy's anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons include Evolved Sparrow Missiles, Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, Phalanx CIWS and two .50-cal. machine guns. Ninety combat aircraft can also fit on the 1,106-feet long ship at one time.
The vessel is powered by A1B nuclear reactors and can generate two-and-a-half times the electrical power of its Nimitz-class predecessor, giving it the capacity to mount future weapons and electronics like laser weapons.
Carolyn Kennedy, former U.S. ambassador to Japan and daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, is the ship's official sponsor and will christen the vessel in December. In 1967, at the age of nine, she had the same ceremonial position when christening a previously-built aircraft carrier bearing her father's name.