NEWPORT NEWS -- The lower bow of USS Gerald R. Ford was lifted into place Thursday morning at Huntington-Ingalls shipyard in Newport News.

The lift is a milestone in the modular construction of the Navy's newest class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Smaller sections of the ship are being welded together to form larger pieces. They're lifted into the dry dock using Big Blue, the shipyards 1,050-metric ton crane.

'The lower bow is a distinctive component of an aircraft carrier,' said Rolf Bartschi, NNS' vice president of CVN 78 carrier construction. 'Its sheer size is indicative of the massive undertaking of this project and the incredible work ethic of the shipbuilders bringing Ford to life.'

This final keel section is more than 60 feet tall and is one of the heaviest superlifts to be placed on the ship, shipyard officials said.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is expected to join the fleet in 2015 and will replace USS Enterprise. She'll have about 500 to 900 fewer crew members because of new carrier technologies and automation, the Navy anticipates.

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