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Gerald R. Ford Class CVN

Grey Havoc

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WASHINGTON – An internal Office of the Secretary of Defense assessment calls for the Navy to cut two aircraft carriers from its fleet, freeze the large surface combatant fleet of destroyers and cruisers around current levels and add dozens of unmanned or lightly manned ships to the inventory, according to documents obtained by Defense News.

The study calls for a fleet of nine carriers, down from the current fleet of 11, and for 65 unmanned or lightly manned surface vessels. The study calls for a surface force of between 80 and 90 large surface combatants, and an increase in the number of small surface combatants – between 55 and 70, which is substantially more than the Navy currently operates.

The assessment is part of an ongoing DoD-wide review of Navy force structure and seem to echo what Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been saying for months: the Defense Department wants to begin de-emphasizing aircraft carriers as the centerpiece of the Navy's force projection and put more emphasis on unmanned technologies that can be more easily sacrificed in a conflict and can achieve their missions more affordably.

Sounds like a recipe for (further) disaster.
 

rooster

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That's disturbing. Don't we only have 10 carrier battle groups now? But I'm just a fanboy so...
 

In_A_Dream

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That's disturbing. Don't we only have 10 carrier battle groups now? But I'm just a fanboy so...

China isn't going to give us much of a choice further down the road. They know the importance of carriers to the US and cheap unmanned submersibles/aircraft are a great way to keep them as far away from the SCS as possible.
 

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I think I've come around to the CSBA idea of replacing the LHD/As, as they retire, with a medium carrier. They can be "lightning carriers," ASW carriers, or assault carriers as needed while definitively jettisoning the well deck roles.

Didn't they mainly propose just redesignating the LHA(R)s as CVEs? Without a pretty expensive VSTOL aircraft development program, they'd be awfully limited.
No, their plan was ultimately to produce a conventional medium carrier. There would be a transition as the existing LHAs were used more extensively in the "lightning carrier" role. But they were aiming for an angled flight deck and catapults on something slightly smaller than the brits' CVF, or similar to a fully modernized Midway. The Marines' STOVL F-35s and Navy/Marine CATOBAR F-35s could operate alongside each other in an air wing.

Ok. I came across the synopsis of a 2005 proposal that has the redesignation bit.

This is the study I was referring to [PDF warning] for reference/comparison. I was wrong, btw, they actually have 12 CVNs and 10 "CVLs"
The 4-ship ARG would consist of a CVL, an LPD, and two LX(R)s. The CVL would initially be a
legacy LHA/LHD but would eventually be replaced by a purpose-built 40,000- to 60,000-ton
CVL with catapults and arresting gear. The CVL would carry twenty to thirty primarily fixed-wing
aircraft to exploit the stealth and C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers,
Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capability of the F-35B. The rotary-wing
aircraft displaced from the LHA/LHD would go to a small-deck amphibious ship (LPD or LX(R))
added to the current 3-ship ARG. The CVL air wing would focus on SUW, strike, and CAS
missions. The LPDs and LX(R)s would conduct SUW as well as amphibious operations using
their attack helicopters and the long-range surface-to-surface missiles in VLS magazines. With
a VLS magazine, small-deck amphibious ships would also be able to employ medium-range air
defense interceptors such as ESSM to improve their staying power in a contested area.
The proposed fleet architecture adds to today’s CVNs smaller conventionally powered CVLs of 40,000 to 60,000 tons that would be incorporated into ARGs as part of the Deterrence Force. CVLs would provide power projection and sea control capabilities at the scale needed for day-to-day operations and for SUW, strike, and CAS as part of initial combat, freeing CVNs to focus on high-end integrated multi-carrier operations as part of the Maneuver Force or the Northern Europe Deterrence Force.

In the near-term, existing LHA/LHD amphibious assault ships would be employed as CVLs using a loadout of twenty to twenty-five F-35B aircraft.67 As they reach the end of their service life, LHA/LHD-derived CVLs would be replaced by purpose-built CVLs with a displacement similar to a Cold War-era Midway-class aircraft carrier and equipped with catapults and arresting gear.68 As a result, CVL air wings would be able to become slightly larger and incorporate airborne electronic attack (AEA) and airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft that are catapult-launched and require an arrested landing.
One of the authors of this study has a twitter thread that covers a bit of the plan's reasoning and why he (much like myself) is concerned by the leaked CVN reduction plan.
 

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Grey Havoc

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Why do I get the feeling the new SecNav may not last that long?
 

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Some "acting" officers in the current Administration have longer tenures than some of the high-profile confirmed.
 

sferrin

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Some weird optics on that second picture. Compare the sizes of the Super Hornets on the Ford to those on the Truman. IIRC the carriers are the same width at the flight deck.
 

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The angle does clearly display the area set up for fast refueling/rearming between the aircraft elevators. It looks like you could comfortably arm a four ship formation there. More if you loaded them right on the elevators.
 

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Some weird optics on that second picture. Compare the sizes of the Super Hornets on the Ford to those on the Truman. IIRC the carriers are the same width at the flight deck.

Yes. The distortion is most extreme at the lower left where the Ford's flight deck is stretched and the island and mast are also skewed in that direction. It's not so severe at any of the other corners, but the Truman's island and mast is also skewed out to starboard and the sea has an overall convex appearance. A very wide angle lens was used and the original photo was probably cropped and rotated for compositional balance.

This view's a bit less distorted and seems to be from a higher altitude.
. https___s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com_the-drive-cms-content-staging_message-editor%2F159128891379...jpg
 
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TomS

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The Ford is almost exactly the same length as the Nimitz and about 4 feet wider at the flight deck. Clearly they have a slight scale error in one of those images.

The Ford does gain about 8000 square feet of usable flight deck, mostly from the smaller island and from shifting it outboard slightly.
 
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sferrin

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The Ford is almost exactly the same length as the Nimitz and about 4 feet wider at the flight deck. Clearly they have a slight scale error in one of those images.

The Ford does gain about 8000 square feet of usable flight deck, mostly from the smaller island and from shifting it outboard slightly.

Why didn't they fill in the aft port corner with flight deck?
 

Rhinocrates

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Why didn't they fill in the aft port corner with flight deck?

Those massive extensions to either side of the stern were a late addition to the design and aren't present in early renders. A flight deck has to take some severe forces and extending it to the full width at a late stage would have required substantial engineering redesign that would have added time and cost to an unacceptable degree. As is, the reason why they were added was to help future proof the ship along with the extra generating power of the reactors - dedicated specialised mission spaces, workshops, new generations of weapons such as lasers and so on.

ford-07.jpg
 

Foo Fighter

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Just an aside on this class of tub. There have been suggestions/statements about the hull not being as strictly/tightly engineered as prior classes. Is that right and does it effect the service life of the class?
 

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Just an aside on this class of tub. There have been suggestions/statements about the hull not being as strictly/tightly engineered as prior classes. Is that right and does it effect the service life of the class?


If you are willing to accept rumors as premise, you may as well entertain any consequence they entail.

Nimitz class was designed back in the 70's and the Ford was designed in 3D solid modeling with FEA. I figure this "tub" was designed with whatever strength and safety margins were specified by the Navy and I have not seen any official statement accepting lower performance.
 

Foo Fighter

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"One would think so, but unfortunately no. Back in the 2000s when they were designing the CVN 78 class, the Navy decided that the new carriers could be built to a much less robust standard than the Nimitz class (including a non-reinforced keel) in order to save money for other 'more important' priorities, since no country would be able to ever again face the United States head on (asymmetrical warfare and counter-terrorism was all the rage back then), as well as supposedly speed up construction. This included deliberately downgraded damage control capabilities (a shortcoming I should note that is common to nearly every single western naval design from that period, when COTS and 'spin-on' were still all the rage). And forget about even token nuclear blast resistance (some thought was given to protection against solid state EMI/EMP generators, but ultimately not proceeded with because of cost considerations and the then prevalent 'Transformational' dogmas). I believe that there is at least one GAO report floating around that examines those dubious assumptions behind this decision and others in detail (some of which dated back to early concept & planning studies in the late '90s, when the 'End of History' theory was still very much in favour). That however has come back to haunt the USN big time; not only can't the Gerald R. Ford class carriers take a near miss at distance from the smallest of nukes, it turns out they likely can't absorb even light to moderate damage from conventional weapons (at present it is very easy in theory to mission kill a Ford and probably not much more effort to sink her altogether). Hence for example the Navy's increasingly desperate attempts to hand wave away the FSST requirements for the class. And that is just one aspect of the new carrier's many, many, woes. With both her survivability and seaworthiness now in serious question, it is not for nothing that the first of class has gotten nicknames such as the 'berthing barge' and 'Big Crappy Ship'. Apparent (and I use that word advisably) mismanagement by Huntington Ingalls of the program is just icing on the cake.

To sum it up, the United States Navy wanted a supercarrier on the cheap (relatively speaking), and they thought it would never have to get near, or God forbid, in, a real fight".

Not trying to promote rumour or suggest I am accepting rumour, merely asking a question. Not sure what you are trying to suggest.
 

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Luckily the Ford Class carriers aren't hosting any expensive & sophisticated aircraft that would be prohibitively expensive to replace in the event of a serious conflict with a near peer adversary.
 

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.........

To sum it up, the United States Navy wanted a supercarrier on the cheap (relatively speaking), and they thought it would never have to get near, or God forbid, in, a real fight".

Not trying to promote rumour or suggest I am accepting rumour, merely asking a question. Not sure what you are trying to suggest.


I take it you have the internal design structure, the FEA stress analysis, and the manufacturing test data to back up these concerns? Using "tub" indicates judgement. Not a question.
 

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Luckily the Ford Class carriers aren't hosting any expensive & sophisticated aircraft that would be prohibitively expensive to replace in the event of a serious conflict with a near peer adversary.


The production line for the F-35 backs up any losses. Where is your counter part production line?
 

Foo Fighter

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.........

To sum it up, the United States Navy wanted a supercarrier on the cheap (relatively speaking), and they thought it would never have to get near, or God forbid, in, a real fight".

Not trying to promote rumour or suggest I am accepting rumour, merely asking a question. Not sure what you are trying to suggest.


I take it you have the internal design structure, the FEA stress analysis, and the manufacturing test data to back up these concerns? Using "tub" indicates judgement. Not a question.
I take it you like arguing over nothing? I did not use the word 'tub' or anything like it. Someone said something and I asked if that was the case. Very badly quoted there suggesting the words were mine, to prove what exactly?
 

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I take it you like arguing over nothing? I did not use the word 'tub' or anything like it. Someone said something and I asked if that was the case. Very badly quoted there suggesting the words were mine, to prove what exactly?


Your opening quote (post 302):

Just an aside on this class of tub......
 

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Luckily the Ford Class carriers aren't hosting any expensive & sophisticated aircraft that would be prohibitively expensive to replace in the event of a serious conflict with a near peer adversary.

To the extent any modern fighter is cheap, F-35 is now roughly the price of F-18E/F per copy. The greater expense would be losing the ship and personnel.
 

Foo Fighter

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I take it you like arguing over nothing? I did not use the word 'tub' or anything like it. Someone said something and I asked if that was the case. Very badly quoted there suggesting the words were mine, to prove what exactly?


Your opening quote (post 302):

Just an aside on this class of tub......

You are correct and I mis remembered, sorry about that. My interest was and is in the veracity of the quote about the ship being built to a lower (commercial) standard and whether this would affect the service life of the class. I apologise for my poor language use.
 

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I've yet to see anything official stating that First is built to a different shock specification (for example) than previous ships. The Navy is catching a lot of flak for trying to defer shock testing to the second ship in class, but their justification leans on the assertion that the design is enough like the Nimitz that immediate shock testing is not necessary. Now, there are folks who disagree with that, but they generally point to the difficulty in adequately testing new components (like EMALS) not a change in the ship's overall construction standards.
 

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I've yet to see anything official stating that First is built to a different shock specification (for example) than previous ships. The Navy is catching a lot of flak for trying to defer shock testing to the second ship in class, but their justification leans on the assertion that the design is enough like the Nimitz that immediate shock testing is not necessary. Now, there are folks who disagree with that, but they generally point to the difficulty in adequately testing new components (like EMALS) not a change in the ship's overall construction standards.

Shock testing would not directly translate to the structural damage of a direct hit. I've not heard anything saying the keel of the Ford class is weaker than Nimitz, but it is possible...such details are rarely public knowledge. That said a CV generally has the advantage of the flight deck/strength deck providing additional hull rigidity well beyond that of just the keel, so whether the keel is a less stiff longitudinal member than the previous class might not be relevant with a typical torpedo hit. One could argue that Nimitz had to deal with 650mm torpedoes (type 65) that have since gone out fashion, even with the Russians.

ETA: If I remember correctly, USS Nimitz wasn't the shock test item for her class either.
 

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This is common problem in the industry whether commercial or military, aerospace or naval, we spend a lot of time re-inventing the wheel when have decades of design data which can be reviewed and utilized against new requirements. Qualification by similarity is a great and acceptable form of validating a design against any new or evolving requirement. The analytical tools we have now are far superior now than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago, so based upon mission critically coupled with legacy data, in my opinion would be acceptable. In regards, to the Ford shock testing requirements as the current example, you have an evolved, baseline hull design starting from CV-59 including shock testing throught all carrier classes. Based upon the folks who are designing Ford (both civilian and military) I hope they had the discipline to review past legacy testing and analytical data which made them come to their conclusion that the shock test requirement could be altered, based the Ford's hull design features to current requirements. I get in involved in hardware (and software) qualification as part of my day to day job for the past 40 years. We have used QBS successfully for flight control, fuel, aerial refueling systems including a full-scale target drone which I was chief engineer for flight control and subsystems development. But if people do not mind blowing up budgets and not having the discipline trying to find the balance between capability and cost, by all means, have at it.
 

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CV 66 (America) was sunk in 2005 in 3 mile deep waters off Cape Hattreras. The sinking was not publicized until after it took place. The Navy said:


On 14 May at approximately 1130 am EDT, a solemn moment of silence was held as the aircraft carrier ex-America slipped quietly beneath the waves. The data collected during the 25 days at sea from these test events will be of great value to Navy engineers and designers to improve the design and survivability of the nation's future aircraft carrier fleet......


I would assume that data was factored into the Ford design.

I was under the impression the original schedule had called for CVN 79 to be shock tested and this was only changed during the Obama administration.
 

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I believe the USN planned to shock test it and then when the schedule went to hell, wanted to just deploy it because of all the delays. A little bit of googling shows that the Nimitz class wasn't shock tested until the 4th unit, though I haven't located a reason.
 

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I believe the USN planned to shock test it and then when the schedule went to hell, wanted to just deploy it because of all the delays. A little bit of googling shows that the Nimitz class wasn't shock tested until the 4th unit, though I haven't located a reason.

It's fairly typical not to do it until the second or third unit of a class (I think John Paul Jones was the full scale shock test unit for the Burke Flight I and Winston Churchill for Flight IIA.). DOT&E always wants it done on lead ship but the Navy's position seems to be that lead ships have too many other things to do to get ready for fleet operations.
 

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Both bodies restore a Virginia-class attack submarine the Trump Administration would have cut, but the HASC cuts other shipbuilding programs to build the sub sooner; HASC adds $2.16 billion to shipbuilding overall when SASC added $1.35 billion. UPDATE A HASC aide argued vehemently that SASC really only funds a quarter of the missing sub, punting most of the cost to another year — which could disrupt the production line not only for Virginias but for the larger Columbia class. (Much more on this below).

Differences Over The Fleet

While the House and Senate Armed Services committees both sought to restore the. Virginia submarine cut by Trump’s budget and cut unmanned warship prototypes, they did so in markedly different ways.

All told, the administration asked for just over $19.9 billion for the Shipbuilding & Conversion, Navy (SCN) account. Both committees increased that, but by different amounts: SASC by $1.35 billion (7%); HASC by $2.16 billion (11%).

That’s in large part because, while SASC restored the submarine by adding $472 million in Advanced Procurement to start buying it, with funding to finish it left to a later year, the HASC restored the full $2.6 billion to buy it in 2021.

UPDATE Congress, shipyards, and the Navy have labored mightily to keep building two Virginias a year, but after the Trump administration cut one from its 2021 request, “the Senate did nothing to fund the second submarine in FY 21,” a HASC staffer told reporters.

The $472 million SASC labeled Advanced Procurement is only enough to buy the submarine’s reactor, the staffer elaborated to me after the conference call. You’d need to find nearly $3 billion more to buy the whole boat, he said, and you’d need to find that money in the next two years. Otherwise, not only are you stuck with a useless fraction of a Virginia submarine, you disrupt the production line so badly it hurts the larger Columbia class as well.

Without full funding for two Virginias in 2021, the shipyards, Electric Boat and Newport News, will have to start laying off workers — at the very time they need to ramp up their workforce to build the even larger Columbia class. The shipyards’ contract with the Navy and the multi-year timeline to buy a sub give them some leeway to keep building two boats a year, the staffer said, but by 2023 they’d run out of room and have to start layoffs.UPDATE ENDS

To make up the full amount required to restore the Virginia submarine, HASC also had to dock several other shipbuilding programs that SASC increased.

The major differences, besides the Virginia?

  • Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine: SASC added $175 million to shore up the shaky submarine supplier base; HASC added nothing UPDATE but would argue their plus-up to the Virginia program does much more to keep the supplier base strong.
  • Ford-class aircraft carrier: SASC funded the administration’s full request; HASC cut $90 million.
  • Arleigh Burke destroyers: SASC cut $30 million, HASC funded the full request.
  • Amphibious ships: SASC added $500 million to both the mid-size LPD class and the larger LHA, HASC cut $37.7 million from LPD and did nothing on LHA.
  • Support craft: SASC cut $126 million from various landing craft and other auxiliaries, HASC funded the full request.
Given the popularity of shipbuilding programs, which are big employers in many states, the odds are good that the final compromise will have more adds than cuts.
 

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