Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy was christened in a ceremony attended by over 20,000 people in Newport News, Va.
Caroline Kennedy, former ambassador to Japan and the late president's daughter, sponsored the vessel and ceremonially smashed a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow of the PCU, pre-commissioning unit, John F. Kennedy on Saturday.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will receive its "USS" designation when it is formally commissioned in 2020, and is currently referred to as CVN 79.
"I'm so proud to be the sponsor of this ship and bring her to life," she said. "The CVN 79 crew is fortunate to have such distinguished leaders, this is your day, and our chance to say thank you."
The Kennedy includes an upgraded propulsion system, an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, advanced arresting gear, advanced radar and integrated warfare systems, and other new systems. The ship, 1,106 feet long, is designed to carry up to 90 aircraft.
"Today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a day that forever changed the lives of brave American warriors like John F. Kennedy and transformed the way we fought as a Navy," Thomas B. Modly, acting secretary of the Navy, said at the ceremony. "Much has changed over the past 78 years, but our nation, and our world, still needs brave American sailors like the ones who will operate and serve on this ship. Kennedy knew what it meant to serve, to lead, and to sacrifice and his legacy will continue with you."
The ship had its "first cut of steel" ceremony in 2011 at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Newport News, with more than 3,000 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers involved in its construction.
At $11.4 billion, it cost nearly $1.5 billion less than the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford, and 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.