Featured image: Carrier Air Wing 5 on board nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington on October 11th, 2013.
(Image © Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Chris Cavagnaro/USN)
There is a big risk that the first Carrier Air Wing to board the newly build US aircraft carrier CVN 78 USS Gerald R Ford will have to operate in far less than ideal situations. The General Accountability Office (GAO) – or the guys and girls that keep track of government spending – slapped the US Department of Defense on the wrist on 20 November 2014. Roughly translated: the US military will have a ship – and with that the air wing on board – that is far less capable to enter combat then it’s supposed to be.
The most disturbing part for the aviators is the number of aircraft launches and landings, that seems to be less than what they need in order to be effective. The GAO puts it like this: “The Navy will have a ship that is less complete than initially planned at ship delivery, but at a greater cost.” And even after the Ford will be handed over in 2016 the US tax payers have to cough up an additional US$ 988 million to finish the semi-ready vessel, on top of the US$ 12.9 billion the vessel already is supposed to cost.
Aircraft that will board the Ford will be launched by electromagnetic catapults, in stead of the steam-powered launch facilities on the current 10 Nimitz-class vessels and all its modern predecessors. But so far the innovation has not promised the required amount of launches in a certain time frame, meaning the ship might be put into a war situation without having the necessary capabilities. That means the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes and maybe even the future F-35Cs will be operate from a base that is in less than ideal conditions.
The electromagnetic field that will propel the aviators off the ship would in theory enable them as to bring along more than 225 percent additional weaponry or other payload, compared to the current situation on the Nimitz-class carriers. This would make it easier for the air crew to either hit the target harder or conduct longer missions with less aerial refuellings.
CVN 79 USS John F Kennedy, the second Ford-class carrier, is on its way as well. But considering the current criticism the question is why the rush when even its brother Ford is disappointing. “After the planned investment CVN 78 may not achieve improved operational performance over the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers as promised for some time to come,” according to the GAO report.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, based on an official GAO report