Yesterday the USS Ronald Regan, the ninth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, was commisioned in Norfolk, VA. Her keel was laid in 1998 and she was christened in 2001. She was scheduled to be commisioned in May, but a few minor delays, including a February fire caused by faulty circuit breakers, delayed the commisioning until now. I believe she will be stationed in San Diego, but some stories I’ve read indicate that the Navy is considering Washington state instead, presumably to keep an eye on Microsoft’s growing power.
The Reagan incorporates several design changes from earlier Nimitzs, most notably a re-designed bulbous bow for increased stability and propulsion, and aircraft elevators with increased capacity. The next (and last) Nimitz, the USS George H.W. Bush, may remove elevator number one (starboard in front near the bow catapults) if the new elevators work as designed. Elevator one is rarely used due to aircraft flow and safety issues, and the Bush may use two wider elevators, one in front and one behind the island superstructure, instead of the current configuration of two in front and one behind. As far as I know, the port elevator would remain as is.
The USS Constellation was inactivated immediately after participating in the Iraqi campaign, so the Navy continues to operate 12 carriers (11 active-duty and 1 training). After the Bush, the next generation of carriers will be the CV-21 (formerly CVNX or CVX) series of ships incorporating many new design features and advanced technologies.