As the Navy prepares for the Nov. 9 christening of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the service is getting ready for 27-months of rigorous, integrated testing of the ship’s new systems and technologies.
As the first in a new class of higher-tech aircraft carriers, the USS Ford represents an ambitious Navy effort to integrate a suite of new technologies onto a single platform.
The innovations built into the first ever Ford-class carrier include a larger flight deck designed to increase the sortie rate as well as more powerful nuclear reactor cores, advanced arresting gear, dual-band radar, computer automation, turbine generators and an Electro-magnetic Aircraft Launching System, or EMALS.. The new ship is slated for commissioning in 2016, following the test period.
Military.com attended a media round table with Rear Adm. Tom Moore, the program executive officer for aicraft carriers. Check out the full story here about the ramp up for the USS Gerald R. Ford.
The concept with the Ford-class carriers, which will serve for a life-span of 50 years each, is to methodically replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers which were introduced in the 1970s, Navy officials said. While nearly complete, construction of the Ford has drawn criticisms from lawmakers and congressional watchdog groups for its escalating costs; at $12.9 billion, the Ford is more than $2 billion over budget.
The Navy says it is working vigorously to contain and reduce costs, adding that some of cost growth was due to what they called “first-in-class” costs, meaning non-recurring engineering and development dollars which will inform the entire class of carriers. The Navy is optimistic it can control cost growth on the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy, now also under construction.
The USS Ford’s larger flight deck is intended to provide the Navy with an improved ability to project and sustain power by allowing for more flight missions. In fact, the new carrier will be able to generate 33-percent more sorties than Nimitz-class carriers can. That translates into 160 sorties per day, officials said. Navy leaders have also indicated that the USS Ford’s flight deck and electronic systems were designed to accommodate unmanned systems as well, something which appears likely to factor prominently in the future.
Given all the new integrated technologies woven into the ship’s design and construction, Moore referred to the upcoming test period as “the most challenging and integrated test program the Navy has ever faced.”