Newly Built Ford Super Aircraft Carrier is Still Broken

The US Navy has still not fixed major problems with the USS Ford aircraft carrier. In 2019, four of the eleven weapons elevators were broken. There were supposed to be eleven weapons elevators. In May, 2021, the US Navy confirmed four lower-stage advanced weapons elevators will not be certified until later in 2021. This will be after shock trials take place. Two of the four undelivered lower stage elevators are being tested, and the final two elevators are in the last stages of construction.

A shock trial, known formally as a full ship shock trial (FSST) and sometimes called a shock test, is a test of the combat survivability of the design of a new class of ships. A shock trial involves setting off one or more controlled underwater charges near the ship being tested, and then measuring the ship’s response to the underwater shock caused by the explosions. The test is intended to verify the ability of the ship’s structure and internal systems to withstand shocks caused by enemy weapons, and to reveal any changes that need to be made to the design of the ship’s structure or its internal systems to meet the ship’s intended survivability standard. Shock trials are nominally to be performed on the lead ship in a new class of ships, but there have also been cases where the shock trial for a new class was done on one of the subsequent ships in the class.

OSD has argued that the risks of delaying the CVN-78 class shock trial to the second ship in the class are not acceptable. The risk of delaying the shock
trial, OSD has argued, outweighs the desire to avoid a delay in the first deployment of the lead ship in the class.

It seems prudent for the OSD to want to find out if the ship design will need more modifications before it is really ready for combat. Therefore, the Navy will perform shock trials on a ship that has broken elevators before trials begin.

It was initially slated for delivery in 2015. It was commissioned in July 22, 2017 with a lot of problems and broken systems.

In 2019, Nextbigfuture reported that the $13 $14 billion Ford next-generation aircraft carrier was a failure with huge radar, weapon elevators, launching and landing problems. I believe the Navy is using accounting tricks to move the added cost of the repairs and rework in other budget areas.

Early in 2019, the Navy was talking about first deployment in 2022.

In November, 2020, the Navy expected the third elevator to be certified before the end of 2020. The third lower-stage elevator was certified on March 2, 2021.

In December 9, 2020, shipbuilding document submitted by the outgoing Trump Administration called for a future fleet with 8 to 11 CVNs and 0 to 6 smaller aircraft carriers called light aircraft carriers (CVLs). A March 2021 press report stated that the Biden Administration is considering a reduction in aircraft carrier force structure as part of its FY2022 budget submission. Before 2019, the talk was to have 11 or 12 large aircraft carriers. The US failure to deliver new combat ready aircraft carriers, new naval equipment and new fighter planes remotely on cost budget or time budget is finally forcing planners to reduce the number of ships or to abandon failing programs.

In 6 April 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that each Gerald R. Ford-class carrier would be built over five years. There would be a fiscally sustainable path to a 10-carrier fleet after 2040. In December 2016, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signed a Force Structure Assessment calling for a 355-ship fleet with 12 aircraft carrier. This would require building a Ford carrier every 3 to four years.

Construction started August 2005. Construction began in earnest in early 2007. The keel was laid Nov 2009. It is going to take 12-15 years to get a “fully working and somewhat combat ready” ship.

The older Nimitz Class aircraft carrier can sustain a sortie generation rate of 120 launches and recoveries over a twelve-hour flight day, and then sustain that level of operation for thirty days. The USS Ford is supposed to demonstrate 160 sorties a day over the same time period. The USS Ford’s surge sortie rate, which must be sustained over four days of continuous, 24-hours a day flying, is 270 sorties. The Nimitz has proven a surge level of 240 sorties.

On December 12, 2020, the FORD conducted 170 arrested landings and catapult launches. It cannot sustain this rate because it does not have enough elevators to launch multiple sorties with rearmed planes at a high rate.

The Navy claims to have fixed almost all of the problems from 2019.

SOURCES- Navy, FAS, Forbes
Written by Brian Wang,

6 thoughts on “Newly Built Ford Super Aircraft Carrier is Still Broken”

  1. As with the F35, the issue appears to be trying to implement several different branches of brand new technology all in the same new product, and still deliver it on time compared to the previous product which was much more of "similar tech to previous systems, but bigger, better, faster."

    They want a brand new, huge, long range, radar capable of tracking stealthy aircraft, missiles, drones, in their thousands over a 3D bubble several hundred km in radius. Including detection, tracking, identification and targeting (if that proves necessary). And automatically meshing with the systems on the aircraft and drones and fighters and other ships to share information.

    They want catapults that can be controlled far more precisely than before, so that a huge range of different aircraft, of different weights, can all be launched. Without launching the heavy fighters and bombers too slowly or tearing lightweight drones in half.

    They want a new elevator tech that is both faster and takes up less room, so you can have more elevators.

    And a lot more "new tech" that I can't remember the details of.

    A lot of the difficulty is what you'd expect from developing new systems.

    But of course why was it all lumped together into one new ship so that problems in one project delays everything else? That's the fundamental problem here.

  2. Broken? It serves it's intended purpose, therefore it is operating as intended. That is to transfer taxpayer's money into military contractor's hands.

  3. All the pressure that has been put on the contractors in the 5+ years of delays. All the pressure when they delivered a floating barge in 2017 instead of a combat aircraft carrier.

  4. Sounds like the Navy needs to put more pressure on it's contractors, to GET IT DONE. Although I'm sure it's the classic "cost+" contract, which drags it out, while raping the US tax payer.

  5. We've been building aircraft carriers for almost 100 years, far too long for these kinds of teething problems. Sounds like it was built under the same procurement system as the SLS, where the goal is not to build a finished functioning system but to bilk as much money as possible for as long as possible.

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