Airfields Afloat: The USA’s New Gerald Ford Class Super-Carriers
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June 14/19: Early Service Life Huntington Ingalls will perform early service life period work on the USS Gerald R. Ford. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC awarded the deal, which is valued at $687.1 million. Per the terms of the contract, Huntington Ingalls will support ship repair and modernization during continuous incremental availabilities, planned incremental availabilities, full-ship shock trials and continuous maintenance and emergent maintenance during the ship’s early service life period. The company will perform work until June 2024. The Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier or CVN 78 is the lead ship of her class. CVN 78 is the first new US aircraft carrier design in 40 years. The ship has 250% more electrical capacity than previous carriers, which will allow the ship to load weapons and launch aircraft faster than ever before. The USS Gerald R. Ford is currently undergoing sea trials. She is scheduled to be delivered in October and deployed around 2020. Issues with Ford’s nuclear propulsion system and Advanced Weapons Elevator had delayed the delivery for three months.
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
The New Gerald R. Ford Class
CVN-21: Improvements and Innovations
Ford Class: New Technologies
Ford Class: Design Improvements
Transitional Carrier: CV 77, USS George H.W. Bush
The CVN-21 Carrier Replacement Program
CVN-21 Class: Contract Awards & Key Events
FY 2013 – FY 2019
FY 2006 and earlier
CVN-21: Other Related Contracts and Events
FY 2012 – 2013
FY 2010 – 2011
FY 2007 – 2009
FY 2004 – 2006
CVN-21 Class: Additional Readings and Sources
The Carrier’s Future
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