Ford: the largest and most expensive aircraft carrier in the US Navy

Ford-class carrier, loaded with new technologies, is the most expensive ship ever – US Navy replaces aging aircraft Business and Nimitzclass aircraft carrier with the most expensive warships ever built – the Gerald R. Ford-classroom. the Ford has a narcotic price tag: 13 billion dollars per unit. The program itself, which incorporates an astonishing 20 new technologies, cost $120 billion – a significant markup over the valued $77 billion. the Ford The price tag is an investment in what should be exceptional performance (and long-term cost savings).

Let’s see what makes the Ford so special and so dear:

The sole purpose of an aircraft carrier is to project air power offshore – it is essentially a floating, transportable airfield that can be stationed off enemy shores.

Thus, the efficiency of an aircraft carrier is directly related to the number of flights it can perform. There’s even a metric for it: output generation rate (SGR). the Ford-class should produce a 33% higher SGR than the Nimitz-class, totaling 160 sorties per day (with a capacity for wartime surges of up to 270). To achieve this increase in SGR, the Ford will leverage the Navy’s latest aircraft launch and recovery technology, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arrest System (AAG).

The EMALS replaces the traditional steam piston catapult found on the Nimitz and Business carriers. Using a linear induction motor – which uses electric currents to generate magnetic fields that propel an aircraft along a runway – EMALS is expected to accelerate aircraft more smoothly (thereby putting less stress on the airframes) while costing less, weighing less and requiring less maintenance. Also, the pivot away from the steam pistons will reduce the Ford freshwater requirements (and associated energy-intensive desalination process).

the EMALS will boost the Ford SGR because, first, the EMALS reloads faster than steam catapults. And secondly, the EMALS allows launches with more precise parameters, which means that the Ford will be able to launch more types of aircraft, from heavy fighter jets to lighter unmanned vehicles.

Development of the new EMALS system took a long time – and was very expensive – which led then-President Donald Trump to criticize the cost of the system in an interview with TIME magazine. But, after ironing out the flaws, EMALS is now a functional and reliable asset of the first Ford-class carrier. In fact, EMALS has exceeded 8,000 successful launches and recoveries last May and has even been used to train nearly 400 new naval aviators.

The EMALS power supply is the Ford newer and more powerful nuclear reactors. While the Nimitz was based on a nuclear reactor, which provided limited electrical power, the Ford will use two reactors, which will increase the electricity production capacity.

Complementing the EMALS, the AAG, which is a new stop gear, replaces the conventional hydraulic stop gears found on the Nimitz and Business. Like EMALS, AAG will facilitate the use of a wide range of aircraft, including drones. The AAG relies on energy-absorbing water turbines, coupled to a large induction motor, which allows for more precise control when shutting down aircraft.

Equipped with new technologies, the Ford was also designed to reduce costs, in particular by reducing labor requirements.

A Nimitz-class carrier needs 5,000 outstanding sailors (including air wing personnel) to operate. Indeed, staff is one of the most costly aspects of operating a carrier. Thus, to reduce operating costs, the Ford replaced sailors with Technology when possible. This results in approximately 1,100 fewer employees needed to operate the Ford – a reduction of 20% compared to the Nimitz. Likewise, the Ford is designed to require less maintenance. With simpler reactors, less finicky radar systems and more steam catapults, the Ford should be much easier – and cheaper – to keep ready for the sea. Between less maintenance and less staffing requirements, FordClass carriers are estimated to save $4 billion in service costs over their 50-year lifespan.

Image: Creative Commons.

USS Doris Miller (CVN-81)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (April 8, 2017) The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway on her own for the first time. The first-in-class ship – the first new American aircraft carrier design in 40 years – will spend several days conducting builder’s sea trials, a comprehensive test of many of the ship’s key systems and technologies. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/Released)

the Ford cost overruns and production headaches are undoubtedly the result of such an overly ambitious project; integrating so many new technologies into a new platform was pretty bold. However, the very first Ford-class, launched in 2017, has performed admirably so far and promises to be the most advanced warship in the world for decades to come.

Harrison Kass is defense editor at 19FortyFive. A lawyer, pilot, guitarist and minor professional hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a trainee pilot, but was discharged for medical reasons. Harrison is a graduate of Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and the Graduate School of Arts & Science at New York University. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.

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