First new super aircraft carrier will not launch aircraft at the desired frequency and will need til 2020s to sort out problems

The Congressional report makes it clear that the cost overruns are still a problem. There are critical technological problems that will likely not get sorted out til 2020. The first two may be delivered in March 2016 and June 2022 but they will still be working on achieving the reliability and performance that was desired. The US is looking to overhaul and modify the USS George Washington as a backup.

The Congressional Research services has a new report, Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

The report provides background information and potential oversight issues for Congress on the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carrier program. The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget requests a total of $2,633.1 million in procurement and advance procurement (AP) funding for CVN-78, CVN-79, and CVN-80, the first three ships in the program. Congress’s decisions on the
CVN-78 program could substantially affect Navy capabilities and funding requirements and the shipbuilding industrial base.

The Navy’s current aircraft carrier force consists of 10 nuclear-powered Nimitz-class ships (CVNs 68 through 77). Until December 2012, the Navy’s aircraft carrier force included an 11th aircraft carrier—the one-of-a-kind nuclear-powered Enterprise (CVN-65), which entered service in 1961.

The Ford-class design uses the basic Nimitz-class hull form but incorporates several improvements, including features permitting the ship to generate about 25% more aircraft sorties per day, more electrical power for supporting ship systems, and features permitting the ship to be operated by several hundred fewer sailors than a Nimitz-class ship, significantly reducing lifecycle operating and support (O and S) costs.

The Navy 2016 budget yields to Congress’s strong opposition to the service’s previous efforts to cut the active fleet to save money. It funds nuclear refueling and overhaul of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington –that it had tried to retire — and modifies its plan to put 11 cruisers and an amphibious ship into a deferred modernization program. Those changes would preserve the 11-carrier fleet and increase the operational fleet from the current 279 ships to 304 in 2020

CVN-78, which was named for President Gerald R. Ford in 2007. The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,887.0 million (i.e.,about $12.9 billion) in then-year dollars. Of the ship’s total procurement cost, about $3.3 billion isfor detailed design/non-recurring engineering (DD/NRE) costs for the class, and about $9.6 billion is for construction of the ship itself. The ship received an additional $588.1 million in FY2014 and $663.0 million in FY2015 in so-called cost-to-complete procurement funding. As a final planned increment of cost-to-complete procurement funding, the Navy is requesting $123.8 million for the ship in FY2016. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in March 2016.

CVN-79, which was named for President John F. Kennedy on May 29, 2011, was procured in FY2013. The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $11,347.6 million (i.e., about $11.3 billion) in then-year dollars. The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget requests $1,634.7 million in procurement funding for the ship. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in June 2022.

CVN-80, which was named Enterprise on December 1, 2012, is scheduled to be procured in FY2018. The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $13,472.0 million (i.e., about $13.5 billion) in then-year dollars. The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget requests $874.7 million in AP funding for the ship.

EMALS – Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System

EMALS is one of the four systems critical to flight operations. While testing to date has demonstrated that EMALS should be able to launch aircraft planned for CVN- 78’s air wing, present limitations on F/A-18E/F and EA-18G configurations as well as the system’s reliability remains uncertain. As of December 2013, at the Lakehurst, New Jersey, test site, over 1,967 launches had been conducted with 201 chargeable failures. At that time, the program estimates that EMALS has approximately 240 Mean Cycles Between Critical Failure in the shipboard configuration, where a cycle represents the launch of one aircraft. Based on expected reliability growth, the failure rate for the last reported Mean Cycles Between Critical Failure was five times higher than should have been expected.

AAG – Advanced Arresting Gear
AAG is another system critical to flight operations. Testing to date has demonstrated that AAG should be able to recover aircraft planned for the CVN-78 air wing, but as with EMALS, AAG’s reliability is uncertain. At the Lakehurst test site, 71 arrestments were conducted early in 2013 and 9 chargeable failures occurred. The Program Office last provided reliability data in December 2013 and estimated that AAG had approximately 20 Mean Cycles Between Operational Mission Failure in the shipboard configuration, where a cycle represents the recovery of one aircraft. Following these tests, the Navy modified the
system and has yet to score reliability of AAG. Based on expected reliability growth as of 2013, the failure rate was 248 times higher than should have been expected.

DBR – Dual Band Radar

Previous testing of Navy combat systems similar to CVN-78’s revealed numerous integration problems that degrade the performance of the combat system. Many of these problems are expected to exist on CVN-78. The previous results emphasize the necessity of maintaining a DBR/CVN-78 combat system asset at Wallops Island. The Navy is considering long-term plans (i.e., beyond FY15) for testing DBR at Wallops Island, but it is not clear if resources and funding will be available. Such plans are critical to delivering a fully-capable combat system and ensuring life-cycle support after CVN-78 delivery in 2016.

SGR – Sortie Generation Rate

It is unlikely that CVN-78 will achieve its SGR requirement. The target threshold is based on unrealistic assumptions including fair weather and unlimited visibility, and that aircraft emergencies, failures of shipboard equipment, ship maneuvers, and manning shortfalls will not affect flight operations.

The arresting hook system remains an integration risk as the F-35 development schedule leaves no time for discovering new problems. The redesigned tail hook has an increased downward force as well as sharper design that may induce greater than anticipated wear on the flight deck.

F-35 noise levels remain moderate to high risk in F-35 integration and will require modified carrier flight deck procedures.

Flight operations normally locate some flight deck personnel in areas where double hearing protection would be insufficient during F-35 operations. To partially mitigate noise concerns, the Navy will procure new hearing protection with active noise reduction for flight deck personnel.

— Projected noise levels one level below the flight deck (03 level), which includes mission planning spaces, will require at least single hearing protection that will make mission planning difficult. The Navy is working to mitigate the effects of the increased noise levels adjacent to the flight deck.

Storage of the F-35 engine is limited to the hangar bay, which will affect hangar bay operations. The impact on the F-35 logistics footprint is not yet known.

Lightning protection of F-35 aircraft while on the flight deck will require the Navy to modify nitrogen carts to increase their capacity. Nitrogen is filled in fuel tank cavities while aircraft are on the flight deck or hangar bay.

F-35 remains unable to share battle damage assessment and non-traditional Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance information captured on the aircraft portable memory device or cockpit voice recorder in real- time. In addition, the CVN-78 remains unable to receive and display imagery transmitted through Link 16 because of bandwidth limitations; this problem is not unique to F-35.

SOURCES – Congressional Report, Breaking Defense, wikipedia