A Proposal For A New Class of Aircraft Carriers

I have posted before about the need for a class of carriers much smaller than the Nimitz-class, so here some more detailed specs on what would be an optimal class of carriers for the Navy. For purposes of simplicity I will refer to this proposed class as CVX.

1. Size. The CVX would preferably have a displacement not exceeding 65,000 tons, a flight deck of 800-1000 feet, a beam of 110 feet, and an overall length of roughly 1000 feet. The CVX would have an angled flight deck, and would retain the Navy's older steam-powered catapults. The reason for this is that the new EMALS catapult uses electricity, and could be susceptible to an EMP blast and could be unreliable. Also, a steam catapult relies on steam generated by the carrier's powerplant, and to reduce costs the CVX would stick with proven technology.

2. Powerplant. The CVX would hopefully be nuclear-powered, using dual A4W reactors similar to the Nimitz-class. However, since the CVX would be much smaller than the Nimitz-class it might be necessary to  either design a new reactor, or use only one. The disadvantage being a reduction in top speed. The other option would be a dozen boilers similar to the Midway-class, which is the template for the CVX. However, the disadvantage of using a conventional power plant is the increased need for oilers, and a relatively limited range. Another issue with using boilers is the vulnerability of their uptakes, which could pose a serious problem depending on the protection given them.

See this page for a discussion of nuclear vs. conventional propulsion.

3. Speed. The CVX must have a top speed of a least 30 knots.

4. Radar. The CVX would use an AN/SPY-1 Aegis radar, and an SPS-49(V)5.

5. CIWSs. The CVX would use 8 Phalanx CIWS, 2 on both sides of the bow, and 2 on both sides of the stern, this arrangement is the same as on the USS Carl Vinson and all Nimitz-class carriers after the Vinson. The RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile would replace the Sea Sparrow as the missile based CIWS on the CVX. The CVX would carry 8 RAMs as well, in a configuration matching that of the Phalanxs.

6. Aircraft. The CVX would at minimum have an air wing of 65 aircraft.

7. Cost. Less than 8 Billion USD. As of 2011 it costs 13.5 billion dollars to build a single supercarrier of the Gerald R. Ford-class, and with the rising debt, and tighter defense budget the cost must come down on a per carrier basis. This can be accomplished by purchasing many CVXs, with a minimum of 20. Enough for all 4 stations the Navy has carriers at, plus 8 more for either more stations, or surges to hotspots.

8. Naming. The CVX-class carriers would all be named after American naval victories or distinguished ships (Midway, Leyte Gulf, Coral Sea, Wasp, Hornet, etc...).

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy


  1. IIRC, the Ford is expected to cost $10-15 billion. You can't buy a Burke for a billion.

    Why nuclear power? It costs a LOT more than a modern diesel/turbine plant.

    EMALS is no more susceptible to EMP than the rest of the electronics on the ship, and all of its aircraft. If it proves itself on the Fords, it has a lot of advantages over the old steam cats.

    1. I'll have to check the numbers again, but last I saw it was 2 billion for a CVN. Why nuclear power? Because you have for all practical purposes, unlimited range. Which relieves the need for oilers for the carrier. As to EMALS, yeah EMP will fry everything, but the idea is to use proven equipment to lower unit prices.

  2. CVBGs still need a LOT of fuel for aircraft and escorts. You can't get away from it.

    $2 billion buys you a Burke or Virginia SSN.

    The CVN 78 Wikipedia page says $13.5 billion.


    1. Thanks for that info, the page has been corrected. As to fuel, true, it will always be needed, but the idea it is minimize the need for oilers as much a possible.