NEWPORT NEWS (AP) -- The final primary hull structure on the USS Gerald R. Ford was put into place Tuesday morning at Newport News shipyard.

It's the latest milestone in the construction of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier.

Shipbuilders lifted the forward end of a catapult onto the aircraft carrier.

Yard officials said the lift is the last of 162 superlifts and brings more than three years of structural work to a close.

Construction of the Ford began in November 2009 and will replace USS Enterprise, which was inactivated last year.

The Ford is the lead ship in a new class of carriers. It features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults, improved weapons movement and an enhanced flight deck.

The Navy Times reports, meantime, that the carrier's launch has been moved from July to November because of schedule delays and its delivery to the Navy has been delayed from September 2015 to early 2016.

Rolf Bartschi, vice president for CVN-78 construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, told 13News Tuesday that because the Ford is the first-in-its-class ship, there are traditionally delays and set-backs in construction cycles.

'The first-in-class essentially redesigns the systems in the ship, uses more electrical power, vice, steam-driven power, throughout the ship,' he said. 'So, there's more cabling, more control circuits than before. And you've got to take the time to get those things right, and that's what we're doing on this, make sure that every system when we build and test it, we're getting exactly what we need to, and the Navy's right there with us, to make sure that ship comes out and can deliver the capability that it needs to when it gets out of here.'

AP-WF-05-07-13 0654GMT

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