The lead ship in a new class of carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most expensive piece of military equipment ever created. And it now has a perfectly laid flight deck that could one day see 6th generation fighters screeching across its surface.
The Ford It will run about $11.5 billion, with three ships costing about $40.2 billion.
Even given these generous estimates, the Navy figures that the USS Gerald R. Ford could cost as much as $1.1 billion more than planned, making it far and away the service’s most expensive warship.
Bloomberg reported the Ford’s rising costs in August, when planners understood their worst-case assessment would put the carrier at about 21 per cent over its target cost (via Hampton Roads).
Currently assembled in Newport News, Virginia, the Ford-class will replace the Nimitz-class carriers and will include an array of new technology.
- Advanced arresting gear used to grab planes as they land on the deck.
- Automation, which reduces crew requirements by several hundred from the Nimitz class carrier.
- The updated RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile system.
- AN/SPY-3 dual-band radar (DBR), as developed for Zumwalt class destroyers.
- An Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) in place of traditional steam catapults for launching aircraft.
- A new nuclear reactor design (the A1B reactor) for greater power generation.
- Stealthier features to help reduce radar profile.
- The ability to launch the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and the F-35C Lightning II.
With fewer crew and the most modern equipment, the Navy hopes to reduce the cost of future carriers while an improved design of the ship’s “island” will allow more sorties to be flown per day than before.
The Ford is expected to hit the water in 2015, with a 10 carrier fleet hoped for by 2040.
A 2004 artist's rendition of the USS Gerald R. Ford, three years before construction began in 2007. A wide open deck will allow more planes to take off and land than previous carriers.
The E-18 Growler is a specialised version on the F/A-18 used for electronic warfare that entered service in 2009 and will have a new home when the Ford is in service
Raytheon's RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile will be used to protect the Ford from attacking missiles and aircraft
A look at the Ford's progress: This 15-ton piece of a side-shell unit was the first slab of steel cut for the carrier during a 2005 ceremony
An inner bottom unit of the Ford is hoisted by crane at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News on January 4, 2008
This 945-ton superlift section of the carrier contains a diesel generator room, a pump room, an oily water waste pump room, 16 complete tanks and 18 partial tanks
Newport News Shipbuilding completed an 825-ton superlift on the Ford September 12, 2011. At 90 feet long, 120 feet wide and 30 feet deep, the stern section superlift was among the largest of the 162 sections that make up the carrier.
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