Let’s check in with DOT&E and see how the Ford is coming along.
The electromagnetic catapult and arresting gear continue to show severe maintenance issues. DOT&E flatly states,
“Absent a major redesign, the catapults and arresting gear are not likely to meet reliability requirements.”
Maintenance is complicated by an inability to perform repairs on catapult components without shutting down the entire system.
“…the Navy identified an inability to readily electrically isolate EMALS components to perform concurrent maintenance. This inability to readily electrically isolate EMALS components could preclude some types of EMALS maintenance during flight operations, decreasing EMALS operational availability.”
So, the catapult system is unreliable and the design does not lend itself to repair during operations. Kind of a double whammy, there! As DOT&E points out, on Nimitz carriers a steam catapult can be isolated and worked on while the other catapults continue to operate – a major operational advantage.
Here’s some data on the EMALS reliability courtesy of DOT&E. The requirement for Mean Cycles Between Critical Failure (MCBCF) – a cycle is one launch – is 4,166. That means, on average, there should be one critical catapult failure every 4,166 launches. The actual data to date show a MCBCF of 340. That’s not even in the remote ballpark of meeting the spec. As DOT&E states,
“Absent a major redesign, it is unlikely EMALS will be capable of meeting the requirement of 4,166 MCBCF.”
Think that’s bad? It’s fantastic compared to the arresting gear. The MCBCF requirement for the arresting gear is one every 16,500. That’s a huge number but you really don’t want the arresting gear to fail and, let’s face it, it’s a pretty straightforward piece of equipment. What’s the actual data? The actual MCBCF is 20. That’s a critical failure every 20 recoveries!
Given the launch and recovery problems, I’m guessing that pilots are not yet rushing to sign up for duty on Ford.
The inability to safely launch Hornets and Growlers with fuel tanks continues to be a problem and, as DOT&E points out, precludes normal operations.
“[Testing] discovered excessive airframe stress during launches of F/A-18E/F and EA-18G with wing-mounted 480-gallon external fuel tanks (EFTs). This discovery, until corrected, will preclude the Navy from conducting normal operations of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G from CVN 78.”
Catapult problems abound, it appears. Consider this item,
In October 2015, the Navy discovered that one of the three Prime Power Interface Subsystems (PPIS) Transformer Rectifiers (TRs) had been damaged during shipboard certification testing. Two of the three TRs are required for normal catapult operations. The TRs were designed to last the life of the ship.”
Life of the ship? It came up a bit short! I hope they bought the warranty option.
DOT&E reports that the failed transformer is 11 ft wide and weighs 35,000 lbs. Replacement will require cutting a hole in the side of the ship and will take several months to complete.
There are other problems like manning and berthing shortfalls, dual band radar issues, etc. but the items listed here are sufficient to provide a grasp of the magnitude of the problems facing Ford.
Why am I pointing these out? Let’s be honest and fair. All new ships and all new systems have problems that are eventually worked out. I’m pointing these out because they involve developmental systems that were non-existent technology when ship construction started. They should have remained developmental programs until they matured instead of trying to develop them during production. It is a near certainty that the Ford will be operating under severe performance constraints for several years. What good does an essentially crippled carrier do the Navy? The Navy seems unable to grasp the concept of leaving developmental technology in the R&D realm until it’s ready. Failure to do so leads to stunning program failures like the LCS, F-35, and Ford.
I’ve said this repeatedly and I’ll keep saying it: learn a lesson, Navy!