MIlitary update news : Why China and Russia Fear America’s New Ford-Class Aircraft Carriers
In 2009, the U.S. Navy finally began construction of the first new type of aircraft carrier in nearly thirty-five years. Named after former president and naval aviator Gerald R. Ford, the USS Ford fully takes the nuclear supercarrier into the twenty-first century. The technological innovations built into the new ship, while causing the inevitable delays involved in building a first-in-class vessel, will keep the Navy’s unique fleet of super flattops the largest and most advanced in the world for the foreseeable future.
USS Ford follows in the steps of the highly successful Nimitz-class carriers. Construction began in 2009 at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Virginia—the same location where the Ford’s predecessors were built. Indeed, the Ford class resembles the Nimitz ships in many ways: they measure 1,106 feet long versus the Nimitz’s 1,092 feet. Both classes weigh the same: approximately one hundred thousand tons fully loaded. Layout is similar, too, with an island on the starboard side, four catapults and an angled flight deck.
The ship is powered by two new-design AB1 nuclear reactors. The reactors are manufactured by Bechtel, which beat out longtime naval reactor giants General Electric and Westinghouse for the reactor contract. Together, the two reactors create six hundred megawatts of electricity, triple the two hundred megawatts of the Nimitz class. That’s enough electricity to power every home in Hampton, Virginia; Pasadena, California; or Syracuse, New York.
Ford is going to need that power, not only to reach its estimated top speed of thirty-plus knots but also the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which uses electric currents to generate strong magnetic fields that can quickly accelerate an aircraft to takeoff speeds. The system is touted as easier on aircraft, extending their service lives, easier to maintain in general and capable of generating up to 25 percent more sorties than the older steam catapult system.
The new carrier will also use a new system to land aircraft. The new Advanced Arresting Gear uses a water turbine and induction motors to halt the momentum of landing carrier aircraft. Like EMALS, the AAG is expected to be more reliable than the existing aircraft arresting system on Nimitz-class ships and easier on airframes.
Ford will also have the most modern radar systems in the fleet. The Ford will have the new Dual Band Radar, which combines both the X-Band AN/SPY-3 Aegis radar and the S-Band Volume Surveillance Radar. DBR is capable of search, track and multiple missile illumination, detecting enemy aircraft and missiles and then guiding Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) to intercept.
For self-defense, Ford will have two Mk. 29 missile launchers with eight ESSM each, and two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers. It will also have four Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems for point defense against aircraft, missiles and small ships, and four M2 .50 caliber machine guns. Ford’s generous electrical capacity means that the ship could someday mount laser self-defense weapons. Powered by the ship’s nuclear reactors, such a system would have a virtually limitless ammunition supply, vastly increasing the ship’s defensive capability.
Large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are the signature expression of American military power. No other combat system available to U.S. warfighters comes close to delivering so much offensive punch for months at a time without requiring land bases near the action. As a result, the ten carriers in the current fleet are in continuous demand from regional commanders — so much so that extended overseas combat tours are becoming the norm.
Nobody really doubts the utility of large-deck carriers. There’s nothing else like them, and the United States is the only nation that operates a fleet big enough to keep three or more carriers continuously deployed at all times. However, two issues have come up over and over again since the Cold War ended that have led at least some observers to question why carriers are the centerpiece of America’s naval fleet. One concern is that they cost too much. The other is that they are vulnerable to attack.
The cost issue is a canard. It only costs a fraction of one-percent of the federal budget to build, operate and sustain all of the Navy’s carriers — and nobody has offered a credible alternative for accomplishing U.S. military objectives in their absence. Critics say carriers are more expensive than they seem because an accurate accounting would include the cost of their escort vessels, but the truth of the matter is that the Navy would need a lot more of those warships if it had to fight conflicts without carriers.
The vulnerability issue is harder to address because putting 5,000 sailors and six dozen high-performance aircraft on a $10 billion warship creates what military experts refer to as a very “lucrative” target. Taking one out would be a big achievement for America’s enemies, and a big setback for America’s military. However, the likelihood of any adversary actually achieving that without using nuclear weapons is pretty close to zero. It isn’t going to happen, and here are five big reasons why.
America’s John F Kennedy, CVN 79 and CVN 80 are being constructed an ahead of schedule. Here’s the next Ford Class Carrier, 70 feet longer than the first Ford Class Carrier coming from Newport News.