The $13 billion supercarrier the US Navy is staking its future on is late again as big problems persist

United States Navy
  • Delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford to the fleet, initially expected in July, has been delayed for at least three months as the ship faces big developmental problems, USNI News first reported on Tuesday.
  • One big issue – alongside well-known problems like the ship’s weapons elevators – is the carrier’s propulsion system, which reportedly requires an overhaul.
  • The Navy is betting big on the new Ford-class carriers while moving forward with plans to retire an operational Nimitz-class carrier two decades early.

The US Navy’s new supercarrier continues to face major problems that will delay its delivery to the fleet by at least three months as the service bets big on the troubled ship, Navy officials said Tuesday.

Following testing and evaluation with the fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford last July began maintenance and upgrades at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with the expectation that the aircraft carrier would return this summer.

The Ford is now set to spend at least another three months in dry dock because of unforeseen problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other areas, USNI News first reported on Tuesday, citing testimony by Navy officials before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.

“October right now is our best estimate,” James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, told the committee, according to USNI News.

The weapons elevators, of which the Ford has only two of the necessary 11, have long been an issue, but the propulsion problem is reportedly less understood.

USS Gerald R. FordUS Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge LeoniThe US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time.

Problems with the ship’s main turbine generators, which use steam from the two onboard nuclear reactors to generate electricity for its four propeller shafts, appear more serious than initially indicated at sea trials, the report said.

Citing sources familiar with the extent of the repairs, USNI News said two of the main turbine generators “needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls.”

The issue appeared last May, when the ship was forced to return to port early.

“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” the service told Navy Times at the time.

The War Zone said that while the $US13 billion Ford has experienced numerous problems with things from the arresting gear and catapults to the radar systems, the Navy is pushing ahead with purchases of this new class of carrier while proposing early retirement for an operational Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

In its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, the Navy said it planned to retire the USS Harry S. Truman two decades early rather than refuel the ship’s nuclear cores to power it for another quarter century. The move is reportedly designed to free up billions for a block buy of two Ford-class carriers and investment in untested unmanned systems the service has determined necessary for future combat.


Read more:
US Navy wants to get rid of an aircraft carrier to buy new weapons needed for a next-level fight with China

As the Ford faces developmental challenges, the service is moving forward with future Ford-class carriers: the USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise, and a carrier now identified only as CVN-81, the War Zone report said.

The embattled flagships are expected to play a crucial role in power projection, but setbacks have raised questions about when exactly it will be ready to do that.

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