All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Surface-To-Air Missiles

Over the five years of grinding war that has pitted Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed fighters, the United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military gear: night-vision goggles, flak jackets, vehicles, counter-battery radars, among other things.

Next Up for U.S. Weapons Supplies to Ukraine? Possibly Surface-to-Air Missiles

Last year, after years of internal debate that preceded his administration, President Donald Trump began supplying Ukraine with sophisticated anti-tank missiles known as Javelins – a move that some feared would antagonize Moscow.

Now, U.S. lawmakers are moving to up the ante again, with legislation that would authorize supplying Kyiv with surface-to-air missiles.

The effort comes in an amendment being attached to legislation providing funding for the Defense Department; the amendment removes existing language prohibiting the sale of such missiles, known as MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS.

Sponsored by the two top lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Democrat Eliot Engel and Republican Michael McCaul – the measure, which is expected to pass easily, does not mean that the weapons will be supplied right away.

Any final decision would have to go through multiple approval processes at various U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Defense Department.

Moreover, targets for Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles are limited for now: Russia-backed separatists don’t have fighter jets, and Russia sending its own aircraft over Ukraine would undermine its assertions that it is not involved in the conflict.

Still, the move sends a clear message to the Kremlin of where Congress stands regarding the war in Ukraine. And, according to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, it’s a logical next step after the U.S. decision to supply Javelins to the Ukrainian armed forces.

«I don’t see this as generating more problems than the arrival of the Javelins did», Pifer, now a research fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). «We’re not talking about providing the Ukrainians with F-35 fighters or M-1 tanks».

The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a query seeking comment on the possibility of supplying the missiles.

One U.S. diplomat who has worked on Ukraine-related issues downplayed the significance of the amendment, telling RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely that it simply removed «an arbitrary restriction that is not in place for most countries».

The move comes as part of a broader effort in Congress to increase military support for Ukraine. Two separate pieces of legislation making their way through the House and the Senate call for authorizing up to $300 million in annual military support for Ukraine, an increase from past years.

And the House legislation calls for the first time for supplying anti-ship missiles and coastal-defense weaponry to Ukraine in response to an incident in November 2018, when Russian Coast Guard ships seized three Ukrainian boats and 24 sailors in the Kerch Strait near the Crimean Peninsula.

Though the overall death toll has surpassed 13,000, fighting around Ukraine’s Donbas region has ebbed and flowed in intensity since 2014, when the conflict with Russia first erupted.

In recent weeks, there’s been a sharp uptick in artillery shelling and gunfire, with Ukraine’s military reporting that at least six soldiers were killed last week.

It’s unclear how Russia would respond if Washington did in fact move forward to supply the surface-to-air missiles.

And it’s unclear how that would affect stalled peace negotiations, including the so-called Minsk Trilateral Contact Group meetings and the Normandy Format talks. Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called for restarting both efforts; last week, the Trilateral Group – comprised of officials from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – met for the first time in weeks.

But Konstantin Kosachyov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament and a Kremlin ally, criticized the overall increase in U.S. military funding for Ukraine.

«In this way Washington fuels Ukraine’s internal conflict. Such foreign support may create a dangerous delusion in Kiev that a solution can be achieved by military means», Kosachyov said in a post to his Facebook page on June 11. «Each million dollars of military support to Kiev spells more casualties and months and even years of war against one’s own people, for which the United States will bear its share of responsibility».

The MANPADS would have no immediate battlefield use, Pifer noted, since Russian military aircraft have not been used in the conflict. Drones, however, are widely used by both sides in the conflict.

While Moscow reacted angrily when Washington agreed to supply the Javelins to Ukraine, there have been few remarks by Russian officials on the subject since the 210 missiles and 37 launchers arrived in April 2018.

Ukraine has showcased the Javelins in publicized drills but its armed forces have not used them in combat against Russia-backed forces in eastern battlefields.

The special U.S. envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, has said that the Javelins are being stored in a secure facility far from the front line.

Ukrainian and U.S. sources with knowledge of the storage locations have told RFE/RL that the missiles and launchers have been separated into smaller groups and are held in strategic locations around the country, possibly in underground bunkers, where they can be moved quickly to areas that border Russia or the eastern front line.

In March, the top U.S. military commander for Europe told the Senate Armed Services Committee that even if the Javelins hadn’t been deployed, their presence had been registered by Russia-backed forces.

«They take that into consideration in the deployment of their forces and where they put them», General Curtis Scaparrotti told the committee.

Since 2014, Ukraine has received more than $3 billion in total support, including security and nonsecurity assistance, from the United States.

Presidential Helicopters

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, will build six production VH-92A Presidential Helicopters under a contract from the U.S Navy. These helicopters are part of the 23 aircraft program of record for the U.S. Marine Corps.

The VH-92A helicopter completed operational testing that included operating on the south lawn of The White House in September 2018. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps

Under the terms of the contract, known as Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1, Sikorsky will begin deliveries of six VH-92A helicopters in 2021. The remaining production aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and 2023. The contract also provides spares and training support.

The contract award follows an affirmative Milestone C decision on May 30 from the U.S. Navy moving the development program into production.

«The authorization to exercise the program’s first Low-Rate Initial Production lot is a testament to the hard work and dedication from the team to deliver this important asset on budget and within the planned acquisition timeline», said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Eric Ropella, PMA-274 presidential helicopter program manager. «This award is an example of acquisition done right».

 

Helicopter Proves Ready for Presidential Mission

The VH-92A test aircraft at Patuxent River, Maryland, have proven their production readiness by undergoing rigorous U.S. government testing and operational assessments, which included operating on the south lawn of the White House. The VH-92A has flown over 520 flight test hours establishing the aircraft’s technical maturity and readiness of its mission systems.

«This production decision validates the modifications to Sikorsky’s most successful commercial helicopter making it capable to transport the President of the United States at anytime, anywhere around the world», said Dave Banquer, Sikorsky VH-92A program director. «Sikorsky has been building and providing helicopter transportation for every U.S. President and Commander in Chief since Dwight D. Eisenhower. We are excited to build the next generation of transport with the VH-92A helicopter».

 

Prepared for Production

The VH-92A aircraft will provide safe, reliable and capable transportation for the President, Vice President and foreign heads of state.

This program ensures long term affordability and maintainability by utilizing the FAA certified S-92 aircraft which has industry leading reliability and availability. The S-92 fleet surpassed 1.5 million flight hours in April and averages 14,600 hours of safe flight per month.

Sikorsky and the U.S. Navy integrate mature mission and communication systems into the aircraft. This aircraft provides communication capability to perform the duties of Commander in Chief, Head of State and Chief Executive.

 

First Training System Delivered

Lockheed Martin delivered and installed the first VH-92A training device at the Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1 in Quantico, Virginia, earlier this year. Marine pilots, avionics technicians and squadron personnel are actively engaged in hands-on learning through the suite of devices. The Flight Training Device (FTD) is a replica of the VH-92A cockpit to give pilots mission-oriented flight training in a simulation-based training device.

The training suite allows maintainers to hone their skills to effectively maintain the aircraft and practice troubleshooting.

BALTOPS 2019

Maritime forces from 18 nations commenced the in-port operations for the 47th annual multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9-21.

KIEL, Germany (June 5, 2019) Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Quentin Woods, assigned to the Dragon Whales of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, conducts a freshwater washdown of MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter aboard the Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) in preparation for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2019. BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region, marking the 47th year of one of the largest exercises in Northern Europe enhancing flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup/Released)

BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region and one of the largest exercises in northern Europe, enhancing flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations.

Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet, will lead the exercise on behalf of Naval Forces Europe.

«No one nation can face today’s challenges alone, we are much stronger together», Lewis said. «Our partner and NATO alliances must continue to strengthen our deterrence and defense efforts and adapt through improving readiness and responsiveness».

The focus of the exercise is for ground, maritime and air forces to work together in exercising air defense, maritime interdiction, anti-subsurface warfare, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, to strengthen the development of joint teams across all layers of the battlespace.

The exercise will include the participation of 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft, two submarines and 8,600 personnel in a joint operational environment.

«I think BALTOPS represents the habit we have made in operating in a coalition environment and in a multinational environment», said U.K. Royal Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Burns OBE. «One of the advantages, particularly in the NATO framework, as we operate together more and more, we standardize our procedures so we now have a generation of military folk who are used to operating together with standard procedures».

Nations participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

BALTOPS is an opportunity to promote partnerships, presence, and professionalism through an unambiguous display of strength in the Baltic region.

Launch Abort System

Northrop Grumman Corporation shipped the inert abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) from the Northrop Grumman facility in Magna, Utah, to Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It will be integrated with the LAS and Orion spacecraft destined for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, designated Artemis 1.

The launch abort motor for Artemis 1, the first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, at Northrop Grumman’s Bacchus facility in Magna, Utah, before leaving June 3 for Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The abort motor is a key component of the LAS, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The shipment of the abort motor brings Orion one step closer to Artemis 1 and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

«Crew safety is always a top priority, and Orion’s Launch Abort System is state-of-the-art», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman, and former four-time shuttle astronaut. «The solid propulsion we use in the abort motor is high-performing and reliable; it should inspire confidence in any future Orion crew members and their families».

The purpose of Orion’s LAS is to safely pull the spacecraft and crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. The abort motor underwent a series of component tests culminating in a successful static test in December 2018 at the Northrop Grumman facility in Promontory, Utah. Data from these tests confirmed motor activation within milliseconds and under both extreme cold and hot temperatures, ensuring crew safety.

The abort motor, which stands over 17 feet/5.2 m tall and spans three feet in diameter, is unique in that it has a manifold with four exhaust nozzles. The motor, shipped via thoroughfare in a transporter, will be unloaded at Kennedy Space Center. Integrating the abort motor is the first step in Orion’s LAS integration process.

Northrop Grumman’s next major abort motor milestone is the Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test (AA-2) set to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in early July. In addition to the launch abort motor, Northrop Grumman is providing the launch vehicle designed to simulate an SLS launch for AA-2. The abort will take place during Max-Q, when the dynamic pressure on the spacecraft is greatest.

Northrop Grumman is responsible for the launch abort motor through a contract to Lockheed Martin, Orion’s prime contractor. The Orion LAS program is managed out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Northrop Grumman produces the abort motor at its Magna, Utah facility and the attitude control motor for the LAS at the company’s Elkton, Maryland facility. The company also manufactures the composite case for the abort motor at its facility in Clearfield, Utah.

Fly-by-wire

A technology kit developed by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, was used for the first time to operate a Black Hawk helicopter with full-authority, fly-by-wire flight controls. The May 29 flight marked the official start to the flight test program for the soon-to-be optionally piloted aircraft. Follow-on flight testing aims to include envelope expansion throughout the summer leading to fully autonomous flight (zero pilots) in 2020.

A Black Hawk equipped with Optionally-Piloted Vehicle (OPV) technology made its first flight at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Fla., facility on May 29. Sikorsky is developing autonomous and OPV technology that builds on its fly-by-wire technology to ultimately reduce the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) (Photo courtesy Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company)

«This technology brings a whole new dimension of safety, reliability and capability to existing and future helicopters and to those who depend on them to complete their missions», said Chris Van Buiten, Vice President, Sikorsky Innovations. «We’re excited to be transforming a once mechanically controlled aircraft into one with fly-by-wire controls. This flight demonstrates the next step in making optionally piloted – and optimally piloted – aircraft, a reality».

This is the first full authority fly-by-wire retrofit kit developed by Sikorsky that has completely removed mechanical flight controls from the aircraft.

Through DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky is developing an OPV approach it describes as pilot directed autonomy to give operators the confidence to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one or zero crew. The program aims to improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations.

Sikorsky has been demonstrating its MATRIX Technology on a modified S-76B called the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). The aircraft, which has been in test since 2013, has more than 300 hours of autonomous flight.

Sikorsky announced in March that its S-92 helicopter fleet update will include the introduction of phase one MATRIX Technology that will bring advanced computing power to the platform. This foundation enables adoption of autonomous landing technology.

GaN-based design

Northrop Grumman Corporation demonstrated its in-production, innovative solution for the U.S. Army’s Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) program during an open «Sense Off» competition at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico from May 16 – June 1.

Northrop Grumman’s 360-degree coverage, GaN-based LTAMDs capability was successfully demonstrated to the U.S. Army during a two-week Sense Off at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

«Our mature, gallium nitride (GaN)-based design demonstrated an advanced system with our current capabilities aligned with the Army’s requirements», said Christine Harbison, vice president, land and avionics C4ISR division, Northrop Grumman. «Our solution supports the need for rapid deployment with an architecture that allows for significant margin of capability growth to protect our warfighters today and in the rapidly changing threat environment».

Northrop Grumman’s LTAMDS solution demonstrated a mission capable system with growth potential leveraging advanced, affordable, low-risk, in-production and fielded technologies from across the company’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) portfolio. The system provides a 360-degree full-sector mission capability. Designed from the outset to meet the warfighters’ current and future needs, Northrop Grumman’s LTAMDS solution aligns with the Army’s top requirements, including speed to field. An embedded logistics capability enables quicker and more affordable modernization and better sustainability over the life-cycle of the program.

Northrop Grumman’s LTAMDS solution builds upon the company’s decades of expertise in sea, land, air and space-based military radar technology and high-performance microelectronics. The company’s offering is the latest Northrop Grumman sensor product to incorporate and use GaN high power density radio frequency components for greater performance.

Having successfully completed the demonstration phase, the company will deliver its final LTAMDS proposal to the Army in the coming weeks for evaluation.

Self Defense System

Raytheon Company and the U.S. Navy completed the final developmental test of the latest generation of the Ship Self Defense System, or SSDS, Integrated Combat System for the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). The test was conducted off the coast of California from the Navy’s unmanned Self Defense Test Ship simulating a scenario CVN-78 may encounter once deployed.

Raytheon systems complete first dual-target test of Ford-class integrated combat system

During the raid scenario exercise, two anti-ship missile surrogate targets were located, classified, tracked and engaged using the SSDS Integrated Combat System adapted for CVN-78.

«This successful dual-target test demonstrates the maturity of the Ship Self Defense System ICS and paves the way for operational testing to begin», said Mike Fabel, Raytheon’s SSDS program manager. «SSDS is a critical capability that enables CVN-78 to defend herself and her crew against current and emerging threats».

 

The Raytheon Ship Self-Defense System ICS includes:

  • Dual Band Radar: This technology searched for, located and tracked the targets. DBR then provided uplink and radar illumination to the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile to support missile guidance.
  • Cooperative Engagement Capability, or CEC: The capability validated and processed the Dual Band Radar data for SSDS. CEC is responsible for providing a single, integrated air picture by fusing data from multiple sensors to improve track accuracy.
  • Ship Self Defense System: SSDS processed the CEC data, classified the targets, determined the appropriate engagement ranges, passed launch commands to the interceptor missiles, and scheduled Dual Band Radar support for the engagements.
  • Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and Rolling Airframe Missile: Successfully engaged and defeated both targets using live and simulated interceptors.

The Ship Self-Defense System ICS for CVN-78 has now successfully engaged three of three targets over the course of its first two test exercises.

 

Background on SSDS

Proven and deployed, SSDS is an open, distributed combat management system in service on US carriers and amphibious ships, including CVN, LSD, LPD, LHA and LHD classes. SSDS MK 2 is the premier self-defense system for the U.S. Navy. SSDS is integrated with Raytheon’s Cooperative Engagement Capability for the seamless extraction and distribution of sensor-derived information. This further enhances each ship’s anti-air warfare capability through sharing of available data to all participating CEC units, improving situational awareness, increasing range, and enabling cooperative, multiple, or layered engagement strategies.

Tactical UAV

In the upcoming Paris Air Show, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will unveil the new tactical Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) of the Heron Family: the T-Heron.

The T-heron tactical UAV that IAI will unveil at the Paris Air Show, is powered by a Rotax engine, which allows it to reach a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet/7,315 m, a top speed of 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h and to carry useful payloads of up to 180 kg/397 lbs. (IAI image)

Designed for tactical missions on the battlefield, the T-Heron is expected to be used extensively by ground troops and coastal guards, as well as by other protection forces. With a versatile design and suitable for a variety of payloads, it features the most advanced IAI technologies.

The T-Heron joins IAI’s Heron UAS Family, which boasts rich know-how and extensive experience of over 40 years, over 1,700,000 combat flight hours and over 50 operational customers, which use IAI UAS’s in a range of missions, environmental conditions and warfare theatres across the globe.

The T-heron features one of the highest levels of flight safety and reliability and is resistant to extreme weather conditions. Its advanced, certified and proven Rotax engine takes it to a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet/7,315 m, speed of 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h and supports useful payloads of up to 180 kg/397 lbs.

Capable of carrying several payloads concurrently, and equipped with IAI’s best sensors, the T-Heron complies with global standards, including STANAG 4671 requirements.

Moshe Levy, IAI EVP and CEO of the Military Aircraft Division, said, «We are proud to introduce the most recent UAS developed by IAI. Our T-Heron tactical UAS rounds up the range of operational UAS solutions IAI offers to all forces on the battlefield: marine, air, ground, and intelligence. IAI preserves its leadership position in UAS’s with a continuous stream of solutions for the challenges posed by the field».

IAI Ltd. is Israel’s largest aerospace and defense company and a globally recognized technology and innovation leader, specializing in developing and manufacturing advanced, state-of-the-art systems for air, space, sea, land, cyber and homeland security. IAI also designs and manufactures business jets and aerostructures, performs overhaul and maintenance on commercial aircraft and converts passenger aircraft to refueling and cargo configurations.

HET semitrailer

Oshkosh Defense, LLC, an Oshkosh Corporation company, announced on May 30, 2019, that the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) has awarded Oshkosh Defense and partner, Broshuis B.V., a contract to produce semitrailers for the Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET). The contract award is in response to an Operational Needs Statement (ONS) from the U.S. Army Europe for a semitrailer that can deliver increased payload capability while gaining European road permissions.

The HET ONS semitrailer delivers increased payload capability while gaining European road permissions

The contract, initially awarded at $13.3M, has a maximum value of $109.8M and calls for 170 semitrailers to be delivered between FY20 and FY21.

The HET was designed by Oshkosh Defense to provide rapid movement of mission-critical equipment including tanks, armored vehicles, and recovery vehicles. Oshkosh Defense has been producing the HET for the U.S. Army since 1976. Broshuis B.V., has over 130 years of experience providing innovative semitrailers for specialized commercial and military transport.

«Oshkosh Defense and our partner, Broshuis B.V., each bring a unique set of skills and experiences to this program», said Pat Williams, Vice President and General Manager of U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Programs for Oshkosh Defense. «As the OEM of the HET, not only do we understand this vehicle inside and out, but we also have a proven record of success delivering critical vehicle accessories and upgrades that our troops rely on. By combining our experience with the trailer expertise of our partner, Broshuis B.V., we were able to provide the U.S. Army with an efficient, durable semitrailer that can be relied upon to ensure heavy equipment arrives in mission-ready condition».

The U.S. Army’s selection comes after two prototypes successfully completed a 3-month test and evaluation phase at Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. The semitrailers were evaluated on their payload capacity, transportability, loading and unloading efficiency of operational and disabled vehicles, and overall logistics capability.

«We are proud that the U.S. Army has trusted us to produce the HET ONS semitrailer, and we look forward to getting these fielded with our Soldiers in Europe», Williams continued.

 

About the Semitrailer

  • (8) hydraulically controlled power steered independent PL2 pendular axles
  • Compensating hydraulic gooseneck for optimal weight distribution
  • Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) provides independent power
  • Provides storage for tractor and trailer Basic Issue Items (BII) and spare tires

 

About the HET

  • 700 Horsepower/522 kW Caterpillar C18 engine
  • Allison 4800SP transmission
  • Single-speed Oshkosh 30000 transfer case
  • Two 55,000 lbs./24,948 kg winches

Digital Technology

Digital technology marked the exact location where Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) landed the island onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) during a ceremony on May 29, 2019, at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division. The event coincided with the birthday of the ship’s namesake, former President John F. Kennedy.

HII landed the island onto the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) during a ceremony at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division on May 29, 2019 (Photo by Matt Hildreth/HII)

«Landing the island is a key milestone in preparing the ship for launch in the fall», said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. «Reaching this milestone on schedule demonstrates the significant lessons learned we are applying to this ship’s construction, as well as the strides we’ve made to use new technologies to gain efficiencies».

The 588-ton island, which will serve as the command-and-control center for flight deck operations, is one of the last steel structures, known as a superlift, to be placed onto the ship, signifying that Kennedy is one step closer to being launched.

The ship is being built in sections with more outfitted equipment – valves, pipe, electrical panels, mounting studs, lighting, ventilation and other components – than any other aircraft carrier built at Newport News. The use of new technologies, including digital work instructions that provide shipbuilders digital 3-D data versus traditional paper drawings, has increased efficiency and productivity.

With the island, Kennedy is more than 90% structurally complete. The island stands 72 feet/22 m above the flight deck and is 56 feet/17 m long and 33 feet/10 m wide.

In keeping with the Navy tradition, Capt. Todd Marzano, the ship’s prospective commanding officer, placed his aviator wings underneath the island during the ceremony. This custom, known as mast-stepping, recognizes an ancient maritime custom of placing a coin at the base of a mast of a ship under construction to bring good fortune.

«It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be selected as the first commanding officer of the new aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, and I’m truly humbled to be joining such an impressive team of highly talented shipbuilders who have worked so hard to make this historic event possible», Marzano said. «Landing the island on the flight deck is a significant construction milestone, bringing John F. Kennedy one very important step closer to being commissioned into the fleet, where its value to our nation cannot be overstated».

Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s daughter, serves as the ship’s sponsor. She could not participate in today’s event but shared a 1964 silver Kennedy half dollar that Marzano placed under the island house.

«The island landing is an important milestone in the life of this ship», Kennedy wrote in a letter. «I know how proud my father would be of the ship that will bear his name and the patriotism and dedication of all who sail in her».

Boykin placed a Newport News Shipbuilding president’s coin, which was designed to recognize dedication, service and leadership – three qualities that the ship and its crew will demonstrate when they set sail in our nation’s defense, she explained.

The other ceremony participants – James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; Rear Admiral Roy J. Kelley, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic; and Rear Admiral Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers – also placed coins.

A time capsule containing all of items placed under the island will be welded into the ship at a later time.

Kennedy is scheduled to move from the dry dock to an outfitting berth in the fourth quarter of 2019, three months ahead of schedule. The ship’s christening is planned for later this year.

More than 4,500 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers from across the country are supporting the construction of Kennedy.