The Navy's new supercarrier can now land all of its planes — except the F-35 stealth fighter

U.S. Navy photo by Erik HildebrandtAn F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
  • The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new-class of supercarriers, can now recover all propeller and jet aircraft, except the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
  • The Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on the Ford has been given a green light for the landing of the C-2A Greyhound, E-2C Hawkeye and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and E/A-18G Growler, the Navy has announced, noting the new Aircraft Recovery Bulletin.
  • Modifications expected to be made after the Ford leaves the shipyard and returns to the fleet will be required for the Ford to deploy with the F-35, a new fifth-generation stealth fighter.
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The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s new supercarrier, can now land all of the service’s planes, except for its new stealth fighter.

The Advanced Arresting Gear has been given a green light to recover all propeller and jet aircraft, to include the C-2A Greyhound, E-2C Hawkeye and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and E/A-18G Growler, the Navy said in a statement Tuesday, noting the release of a new Aircraft Recovery Bulletin.

These aircraft can all conduct flight operations aboard the Ford.

The arresting gear is critical to the aircraft recovery process, the return of aircraft to the carrier. The Advanced Arresting Gear, one of more than 20 new technologies incorporated into the Ford-class carriers, is a system of tensioned wires that the planes snag with tailhooks, a necessary system given the shortness of the carrier’s runway. The AAG is designed to recover a number of different aircraft, as well as reduce the stress on the planes, with decreased manpower all while maintaining top safety standards.

“This achievement is another significant step toward ensuring the system can support the ship’s full air wing,” explained Capt. Ken Sterbenz, program manager for the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program, in a statement.

The Navy explained that the Advanced Arresting Gear gives the USS Gerald R. Ford “the warfighting capability essential for air dominance in the 21st century.”

Missing from the list of recoverable aircraft is noticeably the F-35C, a carrier-based variant of a new fifth-generation stealth fighter designed to help the Navy confront modern threats.

“The Nimitz-class and Ford-class aircraft carriers, by design, can operate with F-35Cs,” Capt. Daniel Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Navy acquisitions chief, previously told INSIDER.

“There are,” he added, “modifications to both carrier classes that are required to fully employ the capabilities of the F-35s and enable them to be more effective on a full length deployment.”

Those modifications are expected to be completed after the carrier is delivered to the fleet, meaning that when the Navy gets its aircraft carrier, which is already behind schedule and over budget, back from the shipyard, it will not be able to deploy with the F-35C.


Read more:
The Navy’s newest supercarriers can’t deploy with the new F-35 stealth fighters, and Congress is not happy about it

Congress has previously expressed concerns about the inability of the new supercarriers to launch and recover the new stealth fighters, as well as the Navy’s practice of accepting unfinished carriers to skirt budget constraints.

In particular, lawmakers called attention to the Navy’s plans to not only accept the Ford without the important ability to launch and recover F-35s but to also accept the subsequent USS John F. Kennedy without this capability.

It is “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft,” explained a congressional staffer in June.

The Navy argues that these carriers will be able to launch and recover F-35s by the time the relevant air wing is stood up.


Read more:
The US Navy fixed the propulsion problems on its $US13 billion supercarrier, but the ship still has serious issues

The Navy continues to work the kinks out of the Ford, having fixed problems with the propulsion system, the catapults, and the arresting gear, among other systems.

The biggest obstacle, however, continues to be the Advanced Weapons Elevators, systems essential for the rapid movement of bombs and missiles to the flight deck for higher aircraft sortie rates.

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