The newest and largest warship in the history of the U.S. Navy will be sailing on its first deployment next year. The Navy announced that the CVN-78 USS Gerald R. Ford is going through the last maintenance phase and will be available for deployment sometime next year. The USS Ford is a supercarrier, the lead ship of her class, and at 110,000 tons, the largest warship in history in terms of displacement.
USS Gerald R. Ford, The History
The USS Ford was first laid down in 2009 and commissioned in 2017 with a two-year delay. As a completely new class of supercarriers, the USS Ford is packed with new technologies that will proliferate the fleet and future aircraft carriers if proven to be effective and reliable.
But some of the 23 new technologies on the ship are also unproven, causing delays and increased costs on the program.
To this day, the USS Ford has cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $13 billion, nearly 30 percent more than the initial estimates. Compared to the cost of previous or foreign aircraft carriers, the USS Ford is a very pricy ship indeed.
For example, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, cost about $3.7 billion, and the USS George H.W. Bush, the latest U.S. aircraft carrier before the USS Ford, cost approximately $7.6 billion in today’s dollars.
America’s new supercarrier has also been very tardy, taking more than 17 years from the start of the procurement process to the initial operational capability. For comparison, it took the USS Nimitz a little over eight years for the same process.
USS Gerald R. Ford Is a Technological Masterpiece
But what makes the USS Ford and any subsequent ships of the same class formidable is the ability to launch 30 percent more aircraft sorties. This considerable increase in how many planes it can put in the air is a result of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is faster than the previous steam catapults, and improved elevators that can move ordnance on the deck faster. A new arresting gear promises to make the notorious tricky aircraft carrier landings easier.
In addition to flight deck improvements, the new supercarrier is powered by a new nuclear plant that has the ability to generate three times more electricity.
The USS Ford is the first new aircraft carrier design in over 40 years, replacing the venerable Nimitz-class supercarriers. There are currently three additional Ford-class supercarriers under construction, and the Navy plans to buy more.
Supercarriers Make the U.S. Navy a Superpower
The U.S. Navy is the only maritime force in the world that can field supercarriers, whose benefit is that they can pack more aircraft, faster speeds, and more defenses. With ten nuclear aircraft carriers in service, the U.S. Navy is the world’s second-largest air force with more than 2,500 aircraft, only surpassed by the U.S. Air Force.
The new supercarrier is named after the 38th president of the same name in honor of his service in the Navy. Ford served in World War Two as a naval aviator aboard the USS Monterey, a light aircraft carrier, as saw active service in the Pacific theater against the forces of Imperial Japan. He was president of the United States from 1974 to 1977. The Department of Defense decided on the name while Ford was still alive, making it one of the few ships to be named after a living person.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.