Nov. 25 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier honoring President John F. Kennedy, currently known as CVN 79, will be christened on Dec. 7, builder Huntington Ingalls Industries announced on Monday.
Caroline Kennedy, former ambassador to Japan and Kennedy's daughter, is the ship's sponsor and will smash a bottle of sparkling wine against the ship's hull in a christening ceremony in Newport News, Va.
The nuclear-powered ship, the second in the Gerald R. Ford-class of aircraft carriers, is expected to be formally commissioned to enter U.S. Navy service in 2020.
Over 3,000 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers have been involved in the construction of the ship since its keel was laid in 2015. Many of the $13 billion ship's systems, powered by steam on Nimitz-class carriers, are electrically powered -- among other upgrades and changes to vessel operation.
The ship is designed to save the Navy $4 billion in total ownership cost over its expected 50-year lifespan, with fewer overall components, an extended future drydock interval and ship-wide air conditioning. The 1,106-feet long ship can accommodate 90 combat aircraft at one time.
When the ship's official seal was unveiled in early November, it was noted that in addition to honoring Kennedy's Navy service and his vision for space exploration, it features a drawing of the aircraft carrier with aircraft on its deck that some took as a clue to how the vessel could be used.
An E-2 Hawkeye early warning plane with wings folded, several F/A-18 fighter planes, an F-35C fighter plane and an H-60 helicopter are prominent are included on the carrier's deck -- as is an MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The addition of the MQ-25, which is capable of refueling fighter planes in the air, is a clue that the Navy firmly expects to use UAVs in key roles supporting the combat functions of the ship.
The seal "displays future naval aviation capabilities that the aircraft carrier will likely support throughout its estimated 50-year service life," Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg of Naval Air Force Atlantic confirmed.
Having the UAV aboard the vessel could allow fighter planes "to reach [combat air patrol] stations 1,000 [nautical miles] from the carrier and conduct long-range attacks to respond promptly to aggression while keeping the carrier far enough away from threat areas to reduce the density of air and missile threats," according to a 2018 report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.