U.S. president Donald J. Trump visited the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, future Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), in what was seen by many as a push for military procurement.
The president landed on the flight deck on Thursday on Marine One accompanied by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They were welcomed aboard Ford by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Capt. Richard McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer.
Addressing the sailors, Trump lauded the aircraft carrier saying it would be an extraordinary addition to the fleet. The president did not mention any of the financial and technical problems the ship faced in construction.
“This carrier and the new ships in the Ford class will expand the ability of our nation to carry out vital missions on the oceans and to project American power in distant lands,” Trump said to an audience of over 3.500.
Trump also noted he asked Congress to eliminate the defense sequester and to support his request for the rebuilding of the U.S. military and navy, drawing cheers and applause from the gathered sailors.
“It was an honor to welcome aboard our commander-in-chief,” said McCormack. “My sailors have put tremendous work and energy into making Ford an operational asset to the fleet, and I could not be more proud to have him here to see this team.”
Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and the ship’s sponsor, who greeted Trump on the flight deck and welcomed him into the captain’s inport cabin, where he met with Ford sailors and shipbuilders for a roundtable discussion. Following a brief tour of crew habitability spaces and unique technology, Trump descended to the Ford’s hangar bay via an aircraft elevator for an “All Hands Call” with Ford Sailors and shipbuilders.
The presidential visit marked a week full of “firsts”, the U.S. Navy noted. It was Trump’s first visit to an aircraft carrier, and the first time the aircraft carrier, named in honor of the 38th president, Gerald R. Ford, had ever received a president. Earlier that week, an MV-22 Osprey marked a critical milestone in the life of the ship by becoming the first aircraft to land on Ford’s flight deck, making Ford the only ship to receive an aircraft before its commissioning.