The Gerald R. Ford-class will continue the legacy of U.S. Navy aircraft carrier ship platforms. Enhancements being incorporated into the design include flight deck changes, improved weapons handling systems, and a redesigned island, all resulting in increased aircraft sortie rates. It will also include a new nuclear power plant; increased electrical power generation capacity; allowance for future technologies; and reduced workload for the sailors, translating to a smaller crew and lower operating costs for the Navy.
Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the Navy’s first aircraft carrier to be completely designed using a 3-dimensional product model.
The overall design of the ship provides the Navy a more capable ship with reduced weight to allow for future technology insertion, increased sortie generation capability, 2.5 times more electrical power and reduced cost.
The Gerald R. Ford class-aircraft carriers have been redesigned from the Nimitz class. They have the same hull lines and the same number of decks as a Nimitz-class carrier, but the footprint of the general arrangement has been totally rearranged to accommodate a new technology and meet all of the Navy’s operational requirements.
Galleys – There are five galleys on Nimitz-class carriers and two on CVN 78. The Strike Group Commander and the Ship’s Commanding Officer have separate galleys on both ships.
Weapons Elevators – The weapons elevators have been redesigned to reduce maintenance and repair costs and provide a design which improves the carrier’s mission capability. Nimitz class weapons elevators are wire rope hoist type elevators driven by electric motors with hydraulically driven doors. CVN 78 is an electromagnetic hoist system with no wire ropes and the doors are driven by electric actuators. Hydraulics have been eliminated and wire ropes have been eliminated.
Manning – The CVN 78 will cost less to operate over its 50-year life because it will require less people to operate and maintain the ship. The ship manpower reduction goal is between 500-1200 billets less than a Nimitz-class ship. The overall manpower savings to the Navy is expected to be approximately $5.0B over its 50-year life.
Flexible Infrastructure – The CVN 78 design incorporates a “flexible infrastructure” which is a major distinction between CVN 78 and the Nimitz-class carriers. Select ship spaces will be outfitted with track on the deck, bulkheads and in the overheads for items such as speakers, lights, electrical receptacles and monitors, so that no matter where the Navy in the future wants to locate consoles and cabinets, the space will accommodate it. Ventilation and wire ways will be run underneath a false deck so that where ever you need ventilation you can reconfigure the space to accommodate changing technology. These spaces will save the Navy significant costs over the life of a ship as new missions require space reconfiguration.
Ford (CVN 78) Flight Deck Timelapse
Future of Aircraft Carriers
The Gerald R. Ford class is the future aircraft carrier replacement class for USS Enterprise and CVN 68, or Nimitz class aircraft carriers. Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was ordered from Newport News Shipbuilding on Sept. 10, 2008, and is scheduled to be delivered in 2015. The Gerald R. Ford class will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation. Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carriers and carrier strike groups will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance. The class brings improved warfighting capability, quality of life improvements for our Sailors and reduced acquisition and life cycle costs.
Each ship in the new class will save more than $5 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life, compared to the Nimitz-class. For comparison, the total ownership cost for a Nimitz-class ship is $32.1 billion in FY 04 constant year dollars, and the total ownership cost for CVN 78 is expected to be $26.8 billion. Half of the total ownership cost for an aircraft carrier is allocated to the direct and indirect costs of manpower for operations and maintenance of the ship. The CVN 78 is being designed to operate effectively with nearly 800 fewer crew members than a CVN 68-class ship. Improvements in the ship design will allow the embarked air wing to operate with 400 fewer personnel. Technologies and ship design initiatives that replace maintenance-intensive systems with low maintenance systems are expected to reduce watch standing and maintenance workload for the crew. Gerald R. Ford is the first aircraft carrier designed with all electric utilities, eliminating steam service lines from the ship, reducing maintenance requirements and improving corrosion control efforts. The new A1B reactor (Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation is the contracted designer), Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) and Dual Band Radar (DBR) all offer enhanced capability with reduced manning requirements. The Gerald R. Ford class is designed to maximize the striking power of the embarked carrier air wing. The ship’s systems and configuration are optimized to maximize the sortie generation rate (SGR) of attached strike aircraft, resulting in a 25 percent increase in SGR over the Nimitz class. The ship’s configuration and electrical generating plant are designed to accommodate any foreseeable requirements during its 50- year service life. The Gerald R. Ford class builds upon the Navy’s legacy of aircraft carrier innovation stretching back to the first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV-1) and continuing to the present day. The introduction of jet aircraft, angled decks and nuclear power were all innovations that kept the fleet relevant for Cold War needs. Gerald R. Ford continues the aircraft carrier history of innovation and adapatability that will enable her to serve our country for decades to come.
The United States maintains a massive navy, with capabilities far surpassing all other nations combined. The aging fleets of Russia and China pose little risk to the contiguous United States. It makes one wonder why such a large full-time ground based military is necessary for the United States, especially when much of it is based overseas. America can protect itself using increased naval power, drones, and Special Forces, while drawing down conventional land forces that all-too-often are used for nation building purposes they were never meant for in the first place.—The Editors