NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Up to 10,000 people could be on hand Saturday to witness the commissioning of the newest and most advanced yet most expensive aircraft carrier ever, the Gerald R. Ford.
The Ford's arrival is a cause for much celebration. But it is also cause for some concern.
This week, the Government Accountability Office released a report that shows it will take another $780 million to get the Ford combat-deployable. That's on top of the $12.9 billion already spent.
Navy leaders caution this is a first-in-class ship, and the ships which follow will be substantially cheaper because of the lessons learned from this one.
"They're going to try every single idea that somebody has for making it more efficient, better, and a better war fighting machine for the taxpayer," said retired Rear Admiral Mike Groothousen.
The Ford's commanding officer, Captain Rick McCormack, says his crew is doing everything in its power to get the carrier ship-shape.
"Right now we're taking the basic aircraft carrier, we've already taken her out and shaken down the propulsion plant at sea. And now, the next step is to get her ready for fixed-wing fighters and we kind of take it one step at a time," he said.
In a statement, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine said, "Behind the technological feat of the USS Ford are tens of thousands of hardworking Americans from the shipbuilding community and their suppliers, a vast majority of which are Virginians who I’m proud of and honored to represent. It’s my privilege to support our shipbuilders and the entire defense community, and I’ll keep fighting to ensure we maintain a robust carrier fleet through my role on the Armed Services Committee."
President Donald Trump, who's previously criticized the Ford, will be the keynote speaker.
Once construction, repairs and testing are complete, the Ford is expected to be ready to deploy in 2021 or 2022.