Meet the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier: The U.S. Navy’s largest and most expensive aircraft carrier arrived in Oslo, Norway last month for a port back in June.
Carrier Air Wing 8 embarked aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) in the strike group’s first deployment overseas.
While the port call in June was welcomed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, Russian officials unsurprisingly condemned the display of cooperation as “illogical and harmful,” according to local media outlets.
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine coupled with China’s belligerent provocations in the Pacific, increases the significance of the Navy’s forward-deployed operations and port calls.
As the Navy’s first new carrier design in more than four decades, the USS Gerald R. Ford perhaps represents America’s greatest deterrent.
A brief history of the Ford-class:
Designed to replace the Nimitz-class carrier, the nuclear-powered Ford-class aircraft carriers will replace their predecessors on a one-for-one basis.
To be blunt, this is the most powerful aircraft carrier ever built, and no nation on earth has anything like it.
Since the mid-1970s, the Nimitz-class carriers have represented the mainstay of America’s power projection strategy overseas.
While the Nimitz vessels have undergone several facelifts over their service lifetimes to incorporate new technologies, the need for a complete replacement arose from the class’ limited electrical power generation, among other issues.
The Navy first conceptualized the VN-21 program which ultimately culminated in the CVN-78 design.
The Ford-class is the first aircraft carrier featuring all electric utilities. This design eliminated steam service lines from the vessel, minimizing maintenance requirements and enhancing corrosion control.
Back in the early 2000’s, the U.S. Department of Defense granted Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia whopping $107 million and later $1.39 billion contracts. By 2009, the keel was laid. As detailed by Naval Technology, “The CVN 78 aircraft carrier was installed with four 30-tonne (t) bronze propellers in October 2013. Both the launch and first voyage of the ship took place in November 2013. Anchor testing on board the carrier was completed in June 2014, while the US navy conducted EMALS testing on CVN 78 in May 2015. The CVN 78 returned to Newport News for post-delivery works in July 2018.”
Specs and capabilities
As the premiere ship in the carrier class, CVN-78 faced several delays as various issues were hammered out – as would be expected.
The next two ships to be produced will be the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Enterprise, which are expected to progress through the development phase much quicker than CVN-78. The USS Gerald R. Ford is the largest ship across the planet. The aircraft carrier displaces 12,000 tons more water than the Nimitz-class carriers and roughly 32,000 tons more water than China’s brand-new Type 003 Fujian carrier.
Designed to elevate the striking power of the embarked carrier wing, the Ford-class vessels will possess new A1B reactors, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems, Advanced Arresting Gear and Dual Band Radars, which all offer improved capability and reduced manning.
As explained by Military.com, “the ship’s systems and configuration are optimized to maximize the sortie generation rate (SGR) of attached strike aircraft, resulting in a 33 percent increase in SGR over the Nimitz class. The ship’s configuration and electrical generating plant are designed to accommodate new systems, including direct energy weapons, during its 50- year service life.”
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.