The Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of its class has finally gone into sea trials. She is the largest carrier ever built. She is a supercarrier, and she incorporates in her design much of the latest, most advanced technologies available.
The Ford was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries out of Newport News, VA. Construction began on her in 2007 and was budgeted originally to come in at about $10 billion, but, as is true with anything this big, this new, and this advanced, her ultimate costs have risen to around $13 billion. Most of the issues were related to these new and advanced technologies that have been built into her. These included issues with the technologies related to aircraft landing equipment and power generation. The ship’s structure and exterior are 100% complete, but internal connections and features inside the ship are still being added at this time.
Three of its most important new advances are its dual band radar, its flight deck arresting gear, and the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System that will catapult its aircraft off of the ship’s two runways. These technological advances have been the most difficult of the ship’s new technologies to get a handle on.
The new carrier is presently in sea trials to test all of her systems before she can be sent out into the fleet. She sailed out of Newport News for the first time on April 8, 2017. Navy inspectors are aboard her, watching over all these trials and making sure that she performs in the ways that she was intended to when she joins the fleet, and to keep track of any glitches that will need further attention.
There is a great deal of controversy around the USS Gerald R. Ford.
“The Ford is a poster child for how you don’t build a ship. They were designing the Ford while they were building it–not a good way to build a ship,” said Former Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus.
The maker of the ship, Huntington Ingalls Industries, told Fox News, “The structure has been rearranged to accommodate new technology and meet all of the Navy’s operational requirements.”
The Government Accounting Office says of the ship, “Key ship systems face reliability shortfalls that the Navy does not expect to resolve until many years after the Ford’s commissioning, which will limit the ship’s mission effectiveness during initial deployments and likely increase costs to the government.”
The $13 billion cost for the ship does not include the cost of the aircraft she will carry, some of which will be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. These are $100 million a piece. It is estimated that under this present schedule, the Ford will not be combat ready until 2021.
The Ford is 1,106 feet in length and will be able to launch 220 airstrikes a day when she is up and running. She will have a compliment of some 4,000 sailors and Marines aboard her and is built to be virtually invisible to enemy radar. Though her costs are immense, she is going to be able to bring an awesome amount of firepower to the fleet. She is certainly going to be full of the latest cutting-edge and top-secret technology seen up to this time. If all goes well with the sea trials, the USS Gerald R. Ford will be the first of four planned Ford class supercarriers that are presently estimated to cost some $43 billion.
There is much to be seen and proven by this new ship. The sailors who will man her will have to be some of the most highly skilled people in the military. This is a massive investment on a yet to be fully tested platform. We hope that it will eventually prove to be the ship that she is promised to be.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.