The most expensive warship in US Navy history is officially on duty

Ford class aircraft carrier
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The most expensive warship in the history of the US Navy – the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) has been put into combat quietly

The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) – the most expensive warship in history – nearly 15 years after the commencement of construction, has officially entered combat duty in the composition of the US Navy.

The Navy in December quietly determined the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) had achieved initial operational capability, the program manager for the ship revealed today.

The milestone was officially reached on Dec. 22, 2021, when the last advanced weapons elevator was turned over, Capt. Brian Metcalf, the ship’s program manager, told attendees at the Sea Air Space exposition.

Initial operational capability is an important acquisition milestone that indicates the ship’s capabilities have reached the minimum thresholds required to be operationally useful. In other words, the super carrier that has plagued the Navy with cost overruns and schedule delays for more than a decade now, is finally at a state where the service can use it in a real-world operation.

The ship is scheduled to deploy in the early fall.

New Technology

Although the construction process was completed in mid-2017, and the launch of the ship took place at the end of 2013. The USS Gerald R. Ford has struggled through years of delays and cost overruns. That has been partly because of much untested technology on the ship, the Navy’s top officer said. “We had 23 new technologies on that ship, which quite frankly increased the risk.”

The Force class is meant to modernize carrier operations for a new era, and the 23 new technologies aboard Ford give it a number of improvements over its Nimitz-class predecessors, including faster aircraft sorties and a smaller crew.

The most well-known additions are the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear.

Whereas the four catapults on board Nimitz-class carriers are steam-powered, Ford’s EMALS uses linear induction motors. The new catapults are more efficient than their steam-powered counterparts and launch fixed-wing aircraft more smoothly and at much faster rates.

The AAG also has advantages over its predecessor, the Mark-7 hydraulic arresting gear.

The new arresting gear can also handle the weight of a broader range of aircraft, meaning that the AAG, along with EMALS, will enable Navy carriers to reliably launch and land both manned and unmanned aircraft.

Ford also features a new elevator system that is designed with larger and more complex smart munitions in mind. Ford’s 11 elevators are specifically built and positioned within the carrier to decrease the time it takes to move weapons from the ship’s magazines to the flight deck.

Ford’s new Dual Band Radar system is capable of simultaneously operating over two frequency ranges. Unlike the system on the Nimitz class, the DBR has no rotating antennas, which increases its reliability and makes maintenance easier.

To top it all off, Ford powers its new systems with two newly designed A1B nuclear reactors that can generate almost three times more power than the A4W reactors used on Nimitz-class carriers.

A turbo-electric system, the AAG has digital controls capable of self-diagnosis and of sending maintenance alerts, requiring less manpower and time to maintain.

New problems

The most expensive battleship in the history of the US Navy in particular as well as the world in general has gone through a difficult journey. Throughout the manufacturing process, engineers were actually haunted by failures of varying severity.

During the tests from 2017 to 2019, more than 20 technical failures in the operation of catapults based on linear electromagnetic motors were noted. The device is designed to launch aircraft from aircraft carrier runways smoothly and quickly.

Despite the fact that with these failures, equipment and personnel were not affected, the above incident resulted in a significant reduction in the number of planned takeoffs. This negatively affects the combat power of the ship.

Of course, the ship was not so easily dismissed. A huge amount of money was invested to complete it. According to the US Congressional Research Service, the total cost of building the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has exceeded 13 billion USD.

This is the price of a ship with a fighter jet on deck and a fleet of escorts, including nuclear submarines. The total cost in the end was greatly inflated.

Entering into service, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will assume the role of fleet nuclear. Currently, the construction of the second ship of the John F. Kennedy class (CVN-79) is underway.

It is expected that this aircraft carrier will be commissioned into the US Navy within the next 5-6 years. In total, US military officials plan to build at least three aircraft carriers of this class.

The Gerald R. Ford-class carriers will gradually replace the relatively aging Nimitz-class, helping to maintain the absolute power of the US Navy on the oceans.

The mainstay of the air squadron on the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier will be the fifth-generation stealth fighter F-35C Lightning II, replacing the fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornet.

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