Next Generation Carrier Set for Testing

Ford carrierThe Navy is pressing forward with the Ford-class aircraft carrier’s massive 26 month test and technology integration test despite criticisms about cost-growth and poor technical reliability coming from watchdogs and analysts.

Navy developers have expressed confidence in the platform and its many new technologies despite criticism from lawmakers, analysts and government watchdog groups such as the Government Accountability Office and the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.

Regarding the cost-growth criticisms, Navy officials emphasize that $3.3 billion of the ship’s $12.8 billion in costs are one-time, non-recurring engineering costs because the USS Ford is the first in a new class of aircraft carriers. Officials say cost-saving methods and lessons learned during the Ford’s construction are now being applied to the building of the next Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy.

The massive 77,000-ton USS Gerald R. Ford, christened this past November and slated for commissioning in 2016, is the first in a series of planned next-generation Ford-class aircraft carriers slated to replace the existing Nimitz-class fleet over the coming decades. Ford-class carriers are planned to serve through 2110, Rear Adm. Tom Moore, Program Executive Officer, Carriers, told

The testing plans for the Ford are slightly prolonged and more labor intensive because the first-in-class ship includes a wide range of new systems and technologies — such as a new dual band radar, nuclear reactor, arresting gear, electronics, automation and an electro-magnetic catapult system – which need to be tested and integrated onto the ship before it enters service, Moore said.

The tests will examine and integrate all these technologies with a mind to how they work effectively with one another. posted a complete story on the scope of the testing here.

The Ford-class carriers are being built with three times the electrical power generating capacity compared to Nimitz-class carriers, Moore said. The USS Ford will have four 26-megawatt generators bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power generation capacity for anticipated future systems such as lasers, rail-guns or other kinds of high-powered ship defenses and weapons, Moore added.

The ships are engineered for with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve a 33-percent increase in sortie-generation rate. Essentially, the new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo with a large number of ongoing aircraft missions or sorties.

The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, Moore said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Stan

    Yes, but does it have cup holders?

    And space for rail guns (on a carrier?) let alone a laser? Yes, these are the biggest ships in the US fleets and the only surface ships with nuke power. As such they make the best candidates for carrying energy weapons…. except for all the other stuff they do.

    New compact reactor designs have made an appearance. I think the idea of using some of the retiring Nimitz hulls by stuffing them with a few of those high energy bad boys leaving plenty of space for energy weapons and sensors is worth considering.

    • MaybeAnIdiot

      Or better yet, fill them to the gills with tomahawks like they did with the four former Ohio-class SSBNs. Imagine how many launch tubes you could fit on the former flight deck. Especially if you could “reload” those tubes from internal stores.

      Now imagine one of those floating off Syria. Or two or three close to China.

      • Tiger

        A tanker hull makes more sense.

      • Jeff m

        There’s got to be a better way to launch and retrieve aircraft than a floating airfield, VTOL/STOVL is inefficient but what about a VTOL “booster” something like the V22, or maybe a large robotic arm that throws and catches planes as they fly by near stall speed… something like that and you can stop building huge ships and build many smaller ones, distribute the targets.

        • Tiger

          After a century of Naval aviation, we have reached the best of the idea pool.

      • blight_

        You sound like a Soviet Aviation Cruiser kind of guy…

        Which is basically an LPH with a reduced flight deck only useful for helicopters, and tons of space for anti-ship missiles.

    • good idea with the arsenal ship idea for the old nimitz. some missile tubes, rail guns and maybe a laser. without the extra planes n fuel might be a little quicker too, to dodge those Chinese anti carrier missiles.

    • Marcel

      With the excess power they produce, these Ford class carriers can charge battery packs for their escorts so they can use lasers and rail guns.

  • mpower6428

    Yes, yes but… how many times will it fall down the jet way ? And how does it defend itself against space lazers build by OCP ? and where’s the USS Nixon…? he was before Ford. Is it a good idea to name a warship after a president to didn’t do ****. and was never voted for and never served a full term as president…? you be the judge.

    • ADA#265

      Unfortunately, the class names are chosen by a committee of appropriations weenies. Look at the asinine helo names the army got stuck with. Iroquois? It’s a friggin Huey. What’s next? The H-69 Hopi?

    • Ford saw service aboard the WW2 carrier USS Monterrey.

    • Dave

      I personally prefer thinking of it as being named after Ford Motor Company instead, Ford was highly involved in military hardware production during WWII, they also did not run to the feds for a bailout like GM did! They were not known for falling down aircraft steps & banging their heads every time they turned around like Doofus Gerald!

  • rtsy

    The hopes and dreams of the American Navy in the 21st century, all in one ship.

  • districtjack

    An aircraft carrier group is the most powerful military machine in the world. Even if the carrier was operating on its own, it is still an awesome sight. These things are basically a mobile military base, complete with airport, hotel, sports complex and mall. The amount of firepower on board should make a normal enemy tremble. The new carriers will be state of the art. I’m still in awe every time I see one.

  • Robert Jones

    Let’s inform the contractors of these aircraft carriers that the US gov’t won’t pay them the full amount, but they will have to accept a 20% reduction, just as we do to hospitals and the rest of the medical profession.
    The main reason why this won’t happen Is that when each member of Congress and the military retires they are looking for a very highly paid position as a “consultant”

    • Stan

      Also, because Medicare paid whatever the pharma/medical device/hospitals/physicians asked of it for decades leading to an insane cost inflation which has left us so broke there is little (nothing) left. Those poor military contractor dears are paid out of the taxpayer pocket and if we are showing them the money, the military-industrial smack better be good.

  • mikeP

    I heard they are nameing a new tug boat design after BO.

  • GM1

    If this ship is not going to enter the fleet until 2018 or 19 with the George Washington going in for its major overhaul. I feel sorry for the men and women on the carriers at this time. Because the same operations that you were doing with 11 carriers now you only going to have nine. So remove the anchors off the remaining carriers, because you’re going to be haze gray and on the way. Kiss your love ones goodbye, because you will not be seeing them very much in the next few years. I served on the Kennedy and Pcu Carl Vinson in the 80s and I can tell you those were some long deployments.

  • Nadnerbus

    The weight of the paint alone could probably crush my entire neighborhood.

  • TonyC.

    This carrier is lighter than the Nimitz class, alot lighter. Nimitz carriers weigh 96,000 tons, so what about the armor on the hull on the Ford class? The Russian and Chinese navy’s both have heavy torpedos. The Nimitz class carrier’s are the most armored ships on earth, more than the Iowa class battleships. This requires multiple hits from an enemy to disable it.

    • sferrin

      What are you smoking? The Ford class is, if anything, heavier than the Nimitz class.

    • Ezra

      More armored than WHAT? I served on the Nimitz from 1990 to 1994, Tony, and can assure you that there is most certainly NOT eighteen inches of steel at the waterline se operating you and a torpedo.

      Sorry, man. It just ain’t so.

    • blight_

      What are you comparing? Empty to empty? Fully-loaded to fully-loaded? Empty to fully-floaded?

      Both are in the 100kton range, and both are probably estimates unless you do a direct measure at any given moment.

  • sferrin

    “The Navy is pressing forward with the Ford-class aircraft carrier’s massive 26 month test and technology integration test despite criticisms about cost-growth and poor technical reliability coming from watchdogs and analysts.”

    What would the author recommend? That they stop work and let it rust while they wait for approval from the critics? Jesus Christ on a pushbike.

  • blight_

    Surprised they didn’t try putting some of the Ford stuff onto the Lincoln when it was going in for its refueling/SLEP. Or the TR.

    TR finished its RCOH in 2013, and would’ve been a great place to test EMALS and other stuff at sea before the Ford completed. Then again if things didn’t work out, we’d be out two carriers (Ford and modified carrier).

  • hibeam

    These boats are great for slapping backwater states like Libya around. Which makes them pretty damn useful. However, Attacking China they are not so useful. As soon as the boat is close enough to use it’s attack aircraft it’s gonna start attracting swarms of not nice stuff. You would need a very good CIW system, probably laser based to survive in there. Not to mention the subs problem. Ballistic warheads with terminal guidance. Yowza. Tough Neighborhood.

    • blight_

      The opening steps to the war will probably be to eliminate each other’s satellites. It is probable that satellites given to a neutral country will also get popped. The PRC and the US might also go after Galileo and GLONASS to assure that nations outside the war do not simply allow combatants to use their constellation. This will follow with attacks against civilian communications and weather satellites, plus those used for imaging for commercial and military applications.

      Won’t be any sats left in orbit, just debris blocking orbits or rainng into the atmosphere. In which case, I’m curious to see how anyone is going to do any warfighting without eyes in the sky. The PRC is probably depending on them for Assassin’s Mace and we rely on GPS to enhance the accuracy and precision of our weapons.

    • Don’t presume they will be useless against China. First, you don’t know if China won’t some day try to operate to Guam or beyond, at which point, the entire Navy will be used. Secondly, we only made one very daring carrier/bomber attack against Japan early in WWII. Yet, it seems carriers we pretty useful in taking the war to the shores of Japan eventually.

  • Ben

    “Ford-class carriers are planned to serve through 2110…”

    A planned lifespan of nearly 100 years… It’s hard to imagine a world 100 years from now, especially given how far we’ve come in the past 100. I wonder how that’ll pan out.


    Carriers have a fortress of armada that protects her not to mention subs, it’s a very scary sight to any foe that wants to engage. Excited to see the next Gen. Carriers. BRING IT ON!!!

    • blight_

      So long as the upgrades to the fleet are not delayed at the expense of having the shiniest carriers on earth…

      • Ben

        Or the most… Every carrier requires a huge battle group. The more carriers we have, the more consolidated our fleet if forced to become. There’s advantages and disadvantages to that.

  • BT31091

    Iran certainly knows about our Navy ….. right?

  • Lance

    Well good they will test it first since there new Magnet catapult doesn’t seem to work on ships they can return to steam catapults when they go to service in a few years.

    • blight_

      It’ll be a PITA to refit. I wonder why they didn’t put EMALS into TR when it went in for RCOH…

    • Actually EMALS is working rather well, and when deployed, they will give the Navy bragging rights again over other carriers.

    • Guest

      Dream on. Just because you can’t stand new technology replacing the old (a common theme in your bizarre rants) doesn’t mean it won’t. EMALS is probably one of the best ideas for carrier upgrades in recent years, and I guarantee you that a steam catapult will never be installed on a a Ford

  • Waste of resources on outdated systems.

  • Rob C.

    Finally were going see the Ford strut its stuff in open water, i just hope their able work the bugs out of the electro-magnetic catapult system and other system they reported problems with earlier. I’m sure they’ll make work, properly with right kind wrench to the system. ;)

  • J. Martin

    And one well placed missile makes the whole thing a coral reef. Let’s spent the money on better things, like salaries and benefits.

  • god bless us all

  • Joseph

    These new Carriers with F-35 and F-18 super Hornets really have the reach out and touch/ smash the bad guy’s. Go Navy