Slow and Expensive build problem
Nextbigfuture thinks the US Navy problem is similar to NASA’s Space Launch System or with construction of skyscrapers. Everything is too slow and expensive.
The US built the Empire State building was built in 410 days.
It took 4-5 years to build the World Trade Center buildings.
It took over 11 years to build the Freedom Tower.
Essex class aircraft carriers in WW2 (they could hold over 100 airplanes) were built in about a year.
In the 1960s-1970s the Nimitz carriers were built in 4 years.
The Gerald ford supercarriers will be taking about 5 years each.
The US built 160 aircraft carriers during the 5 years of WW2.
Elon Musk revamped rockets and is designing and building the Falcon Heavy at a far faster pace than the still untested Space Launch System.
Building fast and good enough and at far lower cost would get rid of a lot of the planning and selection problems for systems.
If an aircraft carrier took one year to build and cost $1 billion then it would not be something where you have to figure out a $200 billion plan over 30 years to build 12 supercarriers. You could build 2 a year and spend 7 years and spend $12 billion. If you could update and modify and adjust the designs as you went along then you would not be locked in for decades.
RAND looked at overall costs and capabilities.
RAND analyzed the feasibility of adopting four aircraft carrier concept variants as follow-ons to the Ford-class carrier following USS Enterprise
(CVN 80) or the as-yet-unnamed CVN 81. Among these options are two large-deck carrier platforms that would retain the capability to launch and recover fixed-wing aircraft using an on-deck catapult and arresting gear system and two smaller carrier platforms capable of supporting only short takeoff and vertical landing (STVOL) aircraft.
Specifically, the four concept variants are as follows:
• a follow-on variant continuing the current 100,000-ton Ford-class carrier but with two life-of-the-ship reactors and other equipment and system changes to reduce cost (they refer to this design concept as CVN 8X)
• a 70,000-ton USS Forrestal–size carrier with an updated flight deck and hybrid nuclear-powered integrated propulsion plant with capability to embark the current large integrated air wing but with reduced sortie generation capability, survivability, and endurance compared with the Ford class (they refer to this design concept as CVN LX)
• a 43,000-ton variant of the USS America–class, fossil fuel–powered and arranged to support only STOVL operations but at a higher tempo than the current LHA 6 (USS America) (tjey refer to this design concept as CV LX). This variant would incorporate the larger ship’s beam excursion the Navy examined in the LHA 8–class flight 1 studies.
• a 20,000-ton variant that will resemble escort carriers that some allied navies currently operate (they refer to this design concept as
CV EX). Similar to the 43,000-ton variant, it will be conventionally powered and will operate STOVL aircraft.
The overall results of our cost comparison are as follows:
• The descoped Ford-class carrier, the CVN 8X, might generate fewer sorties than the current key performance parameter values for the Ford class and might have only incremental reduction in overall platform cost. Between the developmental costs and a reduced service life, there is little cost advantage in this variant.
• The CVN LX concept would allow considerable savings across the ship’s service life and appears to be a viable alternative to consider for further concept exploration. Construction costs would be lower; design changes and life-cycle costs would reflect the lessons already applied in the Ford class. The reliance on hybrid drive with fewer mechanical parts than legacy platforms is likely to further reduce maintenance cost. However, CVN LX would be a new design that would require a significant investment in nonrecurring engineering in the near term to allow timely delivery in the 2030s.
• CV LX, although it requires a larger force structure to maintain air capabilities, might still reduce overall construction costs if large carrier numbers were reduced. But, as described in the report, reducing carrier numbers with the resulting loss of capability should not be pursued without extensive further analysis for all displaced missions in the joint force execution of warfighting scenarios.
• CV EX, the smallest variant, is not a practical variant at all without considerable revision of the Navy warfighting concept of operations.
If a new platform is introduced in the mid-2030s, the Navy’s force structure will still contain a large legacy force of Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers, at least until the mid-2050 time frame, which might lower the risks of introducing a new carrier for some period of time. But, ultimately, if a new carrier variant is selected, it will define the carrier force and constitute the supported capability available to the Navy. Capability shortfalls can be mitigated, to some degree, with changes in operational concepts or by adding additional platforms to the force structure—which introduces additional cost that might offset anticipated cost savings. In addition, if the Navy stops procuring large-deck nuclear carriers, the ability to reconstitute the industrial base at some time in the future comes with substantial risk.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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