For four decades, the US Navy has not designed a new aircraft carrier. So when it took on the task of building Ford-class carriers, the Navy guaranteed that it would build the best aircraft carrier it had ever built. The first of its kind, the USS Gerald Ford is now closer to coming out on the battlefield with some of the most modern technologies we saw on a warship.
In honor of Gerald Ford, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, the first ship of its class aircraft carriers is named after the 38th President of the United States. Instead of making gradual changes to its new warship, the Navy spends a good amount of money and time to bring the latest technological developments on board.
Its predecessor, the Nimitz-class carriers, whose Ford class was designed to replace, were built when the power requirements of these vessels were limited, but with increasing reliance on modern technology, energy demand on board also increased. Under the hood, the USS Gerald Ford now carries two new Betchel A1B reactors, which can improve the carrier’s electricity generation capacity by up to 250% compared to conventional carriers, claim its builders.
Along with upgrading its sensor systems with multifunctional volume search radar, the USS Gerald Ford is also equipped with stealth features to limit its own detection. The enlarged pilot deck can carry up to 90 aircraft from various fighters along with drones.
The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for launching this wide variety of aircraft is one of the remarkable features of the Ford-Class. Replacing the conventional steam catapult and its moving parts with an electromagnetic launch system is expected to improve the life of the aircraft. The Advanced Landing Arrest Mechanism (AAG) for landing aircraft is designed to make the landing experience easier and safer for pilots. These advanced technologies, which rely heavily on automation, are also expected to provide significant savings of more than $ 4 billion over the life of the carrier, as they require a smaller crew.
However, implementing these “revolutionary” changes in an aircraft carrier was also a challenge. Under pressure due to time delays, the US Navy accepted the USS Gerald Ford in 2017, but technology tests continue to delay the ship’s entry into the battlefield until 2022. Earlier we announced that only a few months ago the carrier graduated full ship shock tests. Even many advertised EMALS are overshadowed by cost overruns and although they are easier to operate, breaks down often, Bloomberg reported earlier this year.
With plans to build at least ten carriers in this class, we can only hope that the cost overruns can be stopped as more ships are built and the huge costs of building these ships are recouped by deterring adversaries at sea.