The newest aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy’s fleet is a new state of the art war machine. The USS Gerald Ford is the newest member of the Navy and the worlds most advanced aircraft carrier. So advanced that crew using a touch-screen navigation display say that the city on the water can basically drive itself.
Being the 21st century, it is not unexpected to see many state-of-the-art upgrades make their way into the Gerald Ford. The $13 billion aircraft carrier was commissioned into duty Saturday, July 22 following construction, development, and a testing phase that took a total of 8 years to complete. It is the first new design for an aircraft carrier in 40 years.
The USS Gerald Ford is 1,100 feet long, and utilizes state of the art electromagnetic catapults. These new catapults replace the steam style system of older carriers and are meant to streamline the flight operations. The new carrier can launch aircraft 33 percent faster than previous carriers. On top of that, the carrier is more automized than before, which has reduced the standard crew of a Nimitz class carrier from 3,200 sailors to 2,600, according to CBS News.
This carrier packs more punch than its predecessors and was needed by Congressional law. In 2011, Congress mandated that the U.S. Navy operate 11 carriers at all times. The following year, the flagship USS Enterprise retired, leaving the Navy with only 10 active carriers until the USS Gerald Ford was launched. Congress granted the Navy a waiver until they could complete the Ford. Two more Ford class carriers are in the works. The USS John F. Kennedy is 50 percent dine and expected to be launched in 2020 and the next variation of the USS Enterprise will begin construction next year.
With the all new set up of the Ford class of carriers, one thing that took so long was failures of the new systems, which was to be expected. The USS Gerald Ford is the first carrier, the first ship to have many of these systems, and getting them to work the way the designers and engineers knew they could took some trial and error. In 2015 the electromagnetic catapult failed, and along with various other failures, it took time to work the kinks out. But the delays ended up putting the new ship three years behind schedule. That was something that the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Arizona Senator John McCain was avoidable and unacceptable.
And of course, President Donald Trump had to open his mouth on the new technologically advanced carrier. At first he stated that he is committed to increasing the Navy’s carrier fleet to 12 ships, but then turned around and bashed the new catapult system saying that digital is to complex and expensive.
The likelihood of the new carriers reverting to steam is unlikely. The Ford will have shake down tests of all the new systems, and anything that is not working right, or at all, will be addressed and fixed, and those fixes will go into the Kennedy and the Enterprise before they are launched. It is a milestone that the USS Gerald Ford was launched Saturday, but there is more work to be done before it is officially deployed to action for the first tie. The first thing to be tested will be the catapult system. So far the system has only launched dead weight drones simulating launching aircraft, but they have yet to actually launch a piloted aircraft yet.
The carrier will go through months of testing and tweaking, adding a 75-plane air wing, and preparing itself for its first deployment in 2020. The USS Gerald Ford should be fully ready to put itself into harms way and do what it was designed to do.
By Cletus Dillwood
U.S. Navy Photo Courtesy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni