The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has been an integral part of United States power projection strategy since Nimitz was first commissioned in 1975. Displacing approximately 100,000 tons when fully loaded, a Nimitz-class carrier is capable of steaming faster than thirty knots, self-sustaining for up to ninety days, and launching aircraft to strike targets hundreds of miles away. The endurance of this class is exemplified by USS Theodore Roosevelt, which spent 159 days underway in support of Operation Enduring Freedom without the need to visit a port or be refueled. Over the lifespan of the class many new technologies have been successfully integrated into the design of this vessel. However, with the technical advances made in the past decade the ability of the navy to make improvements to this class of ship has become more limited. "The biggest problems facing the Nimitz class are the limited electrical power generation capability and the upgrade-driven increase in ship weight and erosion of the center-of-gravity margin needed to maintain ship stability."
With these constraints in mind the navy developed what was initially known as the "CVN-21" program, which ultimately evolved into CVN-78, Gerald R. Ford. Improvements were made through developing technologies and more efficient design. Major design changes include a larger flight deck, improvements in weapons and material handling, a new propulsion plant design that requires fewer personnel to operate and maintain, and a new smaller island that has been pushed aft. Technological advances in electromagnetics have led to the development of an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), and an Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG). An integrated warfare system, the Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS), has been developed to support flexibility in adapting the infrastructure of the ship to future mission roles. The new Dual Band Radar (DBR) combines S-band and X-band radar in a single system. With new design and technology the Ford will have a 25% increase in sortie generation, threefold increase in electrical generating capacity, increased operational availability, and a number of quality-of-life improvements. Requirements for a higher sortie rate of around 160 exits a day with surges to a maximum of 270 sorties a day in times of crisis and intense air warfare activity, have led to design changes in the flight deck, which enable greater aircraft launch capabilities.