Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Next Generation of U.S. Aircraft Carriers

The above photo is a picture of the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) the lead ship of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The Nimitz-class carriers have formed the core of the U.S. Navy since mid-1975 and will continue to do so for the next 10-20 years. At the same time the early Nimitz-class ships are beginning to age out and will need replacing in the near future. The Navy began on the Nimitz-class replacements several years ago and, the lead ships of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers are due to be commissioned in 2014.
     The Gerald R. Ford-class has a number of improvements over previous classes of aircraft carriers, for example the Gerald-R. Ford-class will be equipped with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System  (here is a video of a test) which is basically electric currents generating a magnetic field to propel the catapult forward to launch the aircraft. Another improvement the Gerald R. Ford-class has is the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow  surface-to-air missile system which is the successor to the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow which has equipped U.S. Navy ships since the mid-1970s.
       However, there is not much difference in aircraft capacity and capability between the Nimitz-class and the Gerald R. Ford-class as both are and will able to handle the F/A-18E/F Super HornetE-2D Advanced Hawkeye, F-35C Lightning II and the C-2 Greyhound. Both the Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford-classes both carry around 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters most of the time.
    I have written before on the subject of the Gerald R. Ford-class in "All Our Eggs In One Basket"
where I discussed the fact that while the Gerald R. Ford-class ships are being built the Navy is at the same time going to be trying to build it's SSBN-X-class of submarines. When you are trying to build two VERY expensive classes of ships (9 billion for the carriers and 6-7 billion for the subs) at the same time when you need both there are 3 choices. 1. don't build any of the ships, 2. increase the shipbuilding budget, 3. build one of the subs or carriers at a time and modify the older ships to work until the hard times are over. Personally, I prefer option #2 and just increase the shipbuilding budget but, the U.S. will be in so much debt at that point that it will not be possible. Option #1 is not viable because you will always need a nuclear deterrent and aircraft carriers thus, that leaves only one option left. The only real way to get the Navy through the coming shipbuilding crunch is to somehow overhaul  the Ohio-class SSBNs which will need replacing at the time and, the 2 or 3 newest Nimitz-class class carriers and, pray that a Democratic administration does not get elected between 2025 and 2045.  

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

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