Touring the future USS Gerald R. Ford

170414-N-WZ792-007 NORFOLK, Va. (April 14, 2017) - The future USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk after returning from Builder's Sea Trials and seven days underway. During this initial at-sea period, Ford's crew, representatives from Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, the Navy's CVN 78 Program Office, the Navy's Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair and various technical subject matter experts demonstrated many of the ship's key systems. Primary risk reduction objectives were successfully met, and, as is typical with sea trials, the Navy and shipbuilder learned a great deal about the ship's performance during the extensive testing. Analysis continues, and any identified corrective actions will be addressed. CVN 78 remains on track to conduct Acceptance Trials and delivery to the Navy this spring. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The future USS Gerald R. Ford cost nearly $13 billion and took more than eight years to construct.

On Monday, members of the media got their first look at what will be the Navy’s first new carrier to join the fleet since the USS George H. W. Bush in 2009.

Gallery: Future USS Ford returns from sea trials

The Gerald R. Ford — named for the nation’s 38th president — was delivered to the Navy after completing sea trials in the spring. Commissioning for the Ford has been scheduled for July 22.

The new super-carrier is nuclear-powered, and features a larger flight deck as well as electromagnetic catapults. Early catapult testing failed in 2015, but the ship’s Commanding Officer Capt. Rick McCormack says he’s confident the new system is sound.

“It’s really about the envelope. It’s opening the envelope for future aircraft and future capabilities of the Navy and we’d otherwise be contained with a steam catapult system,” McCormack said.

The systems onboard the Ford are more automated than any ship ever before. That means fewer crew members are needed. Around 2,600 sailors will serve aboard the Ford, which is 600 fewer than the Nimitz-class carriers.

The Ford is more technologically advanced, too. Up on the bridge, for example, there’s no throttle — the ship is steered via touch screen. The captain’s view has changed as well. The tower he sits in, also called the island, is further back on the deck, making more room for aircraft to maneuver, with an end goal of increasing the daily number of sorties generated by the carrier.

“We’re always trying to stay a step ahead of the adversary and so I think we’ve done that with this carrier,” said the ship’s executive officer Capt. Brent Gaut.

The Navy says the Ford is expected to be operational in 2020. It could see its first deployment in 2021 or 2022. She’s expected to be commissioned in less than two weeks and then the ship will get underway for testing and receive its first aircraft, putting that new catapult system to the test.

“The systems I think, in theory, are just phenomenal and designed to perform a certain way,” said Capt. Gault. “And now the challenge is to be able to go out and make sure they are able to meet the mark and they allow us to do what we need to do, which is put the ship in harm’s way and go out and fight the fight. So we need to make sure we get there first.”