The third US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford class, USS Enterprise (CVN-80), is in the design stage and will join the US Navy in 2028. Gazeta.Ru examined the differences between the American aircraft carriers of the new type and the previous one, and what were the main problems of the project.
“Construction of the USS Enterprise (CVN-80) began in 2017, and now builders have moved on to its design,” Lucas Hicks, vice president of the American shipbuilding company Huntington Ingalls Industries, told The National Interest.
Gerald R. Ford- class multipurpose nuclear-powered aircraft carriers of the USA have been under construction since 2009. The lead ship, Gerald R. Ford, was laid down in 2009 and entered the US Navy in 2017. It was reported that during its operation, numerous shortcomings were revealed, the aircraft carrier was repeatedly sent for repairs. The second ship of the John F. Kennedy series is due to enter sea trials in the coming months. USS Enterprise is the third ship of this type.
“It will be the first aircraft carrier built entirely using digital blueprints and procedures. Using digital data and digital tools is more convenient and intuitive, making shipbuilders more efficient,” explained Hicks.
“Eternal” reactor and new catapults
The United States is building the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers to replace the previous generation Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. They are distinguished by their reduced crews due to the high degree of automation and lower operating costs. Also, a number of new design solutions have been introduced on new aircraft carriers, including elements of stealth technology.
“Now the US Navy has 11 aircraft carriers – 10 of the Nimitz and one Gerald R. Ford. When two more – “John F. Kennedy” and USS Enterprise (CVN-80), which, according to the plan, will enter service in 2024 and 2028, respectively, will be introduced, two old aircraft carriers – “Nimitz” and” Dwight Eisenhower ” will be decommissioned at the same time.”, Which will celebrate 50 years of service,” Ilya Kramnik, a researcher at the Center for North American Studies at the IMEMO RAN, told Gazeta.Ru.
He noted that discussions are underway about the likelihood of extending the service life of aircraft carriers, since the US Navy lacks them. “Nobody will let the fleet inflate the budget, especially since the US Navy will now have many expensive programs, including the construction of a new generation of submarine strategic missile carriers,” Kramnik said.
According to Konstantin Sivkov, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, the fundamental difference between aircraft carriers of the Gerald R. Ford type and the Nimitz type is in reactors and launch catapults for aircraft.
“New aircraft carriers are equipped with a reactor that provides one load for the entire life of an aircraft carrier – charging is carried out once every 50 years. Instead of steam catapults, they use electromagnetic ones. But the composition of the air group remains unchanged,” Sivkov said.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are equipped with C-13 steam catapults, and the Gerald-class ships. R Ford “- electromagnetic, by General Atomics. Such a catapult allows you to smoothly accelerate combat aircraft and avoid overloading their structure.
“The number of sorties per day on aircraft carriers of the Gerald R. Ford type should be approximately 20% more than on the Nimitz type, due to the use of electromagnetic catapults. They require less preparation for launch than steam ones,” Sivkov said.
According to open sources, aircraft carriers will be able to carry up to 90 different aircraft and helicopters: fifth-generation F-35 carrier-based aircraft, F / A-18E / F Super Hornet attack aircraft, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft, aircraft electronic countermeasures EA-18G, multipurpose helicopters MH-60R / S, as well as combat drones.
First they build and then they break
The main problem with aircraft carriers such as Gerald R. Ford is that these ships are built with a great deal of novelty, Kramnik said.
“A common problem in drafting projects, when a lot of completely new units are introduced on a ship. On the new American aircraft carriers and an electromagnetic catapult, and a new design of the air arrestor, and a new design of lifts, and even plumbing equipment. The percentage of novelty went off the scale strongly over half. This is a big risk, it is believed that for a normal project with a normal degree of technical risk, the percentage of novelty should not exceed 30%,” the expert said.
According to him, this is related to the delay in the construction of ships and problems during testing.
“During the tests, the ship is subjected to various loads and, naturally, is regularly broken. Now the US Navy has brought the lead ship of the series to acceptable conditions and completed the tests. A total of five years will pass from its transfer to the customer to entering combat service,” the expert said.
According to Kramnik, it is too early to say how successful the project of American aircraft carriers, built using stealth technology and design innovations, is, their operation will show. At the same time, he noted that there is still nothing to compare them with – nowhere, except the United States, they are not.
“China is building its first aircraft carrier with an electromagnetic catapult – we’ll see if they have problems with it or not, but it’s not a fact that they will tell you about it in detail. The United States has a more transparent system, these problems have been identified. However, other countries have problems with ships of a much smaller class – for example, the Russian frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” went to commission much longer than “Gerald R. Ford”, the expert said.
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