NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Crews held the ceremonial first-cut-of-steel event Thursday afternoon to kick off construction for the next aircraft carrier Enterprise.
CVN 80 is slated to be the third ship of the new Gerald R. Ford class. The namesake ship in the class, the USS Gerald R. Ford, was commissioned in a ceremony last month in Norfolk.
This new carrier will be the ninth ship to carry the “Enterprise” name in the history of the Navy. The USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was decommissioned in early February — 56 years after the ship entered the service.
Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky are the ship’s sponsors. Both took part in Thursday’s event, along with shipbuilders, members of the US Navy and local officials.
“People, young kids, always say, ‘Oh, you’re our heroes,’ or they look to sports figures as heroes, but I always say, you know, the people that serve our country are the real heroes,” Ledecky said.
The Olympians toured the shipyard and visited the decommissioned Enterprise during their visit.
“To the men and women who will eventually serve aboard the newest aircraft carrier,” Biles said, “I would say, ‘Thank you so much for your honor. Thank you for our freedom,’ and I wish them the best of luck and for their safety.”
Robin Lee, a shipbuilder, took her family to the ceremony.
“It feels great. This is my third aircraft carrier in my tenure here, so it’s good to see something positive and I like the ship sponsors advocate for children,” Lee said.
The ceremony is one of the very first construction milestones in the life of a ship.
Rear Adm. Brian Antonio said the ship is expected to be ready by 2028.
“Both the Navy and the shipbuilder have worked together very well to reduce the cost and incorporate lessons learned from the construction of the first ship and incorporate them into the follow on ships,” he said.
WATCH: Crews cut the first steel in the construction of the next aircraft carrier Enterprise.
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