Monday, October 21, 2019

Forrestal - Ford Comparison

The Ford class aircraft carrier represents the pinnacle of carrier development.  Its features represent the best aircraft carrier characteristics ever conceived and have never before been matched.  The Ford instantly obsoletes every other carrier that has come before.  Or so the Navy would have us believe.  In true ComNavOps fashion, let’s take a level-headed, objective look at a comparison between a supposedly hopelessly obsolete carrier design, the Forrestal, and the revolutionary Ford.

Here’s a quick comparison.

Cost, FY19 dollars
Length Overall, ft
Displacement Full Load, tons
Speed, kts
Range, miles
Propulsion, Shaft Hp
Air Wing, number of aircraft
Combat Aircraft, number of aircraft
Crew without Air Wing

a Reportedly around 700 less than a Nimitz class
b Estimated – USS Enterprise, CV-6, had a range of 12,500 nm at 15 kts (Wikipedia);  I’ve been unable to find an actual range for Forrestal

USS Forrestal

USS Ford

So, how do the two carriers compare?  Well, two factors just leap off the page.

Cost.  The Ford just explodes any previous carrier cost by a staggering amount.  Ford costs over 6x a Forrestal !!!!!!  We could build 6 Forrestals for one Ford.  Even compared to the Nimitz class, the Ford is about 60% more expensive (see, “Carrier Costs”).

The Ford cost is simply not sustainable.  A single Ford represents nearly a full year’s shipbuilding budget all by itself.  There’s no mystery about why our carrier fleet is steadily declining and why our air wings are steadily shrinking – it’s all about the cost.

Air Wing.  The other number that leaps off the page is the size of the air wings and the number of combat aircraft (fighters and strike).  Despite a whopping 23% increase in displacement, the Ford carries far fewer aircraft:  only ¾ of the Forrestal air wing and 70% of the combat aircraft (less when F-18 tanker aircraft are excluded from the count). 

Note that F-35C squadrons will be only 10 aircraft, further reducing the air wing and combat aircraft numbers. (2)

Combat.  The reason a carrier exists is, of course, combat.  Does the Ford offer any combat enhancements over a Forrestal?  None.  The only combat related claim ever made for the Ford was the now-debunked (by GAO and others) sortie rate claim.  In fact, the Ford has a few features that actually decrease its combat capability such as the EMALS catapults that can’t be individually or easily repaired without taking all the catapults off line in a massively time consuming electrical flywheel spin down and spin up procedure.

All other combat characteristics are identical between the two carriers:  same number of catapults, same launch capacity, same flight cycle operations, same aircraft recovery capacity, same number of elevators, etc.

Conclusion.  So, what do we gain from our staggeringly expensive $13B+ state of the art Ford class carrier?  Absolutely nothing!  In fact, the Forrestal cost a fraction of the Ford and carried a larger air wing.  Some of you may be saying that the Ford could carry a larger air wing and you’d be right, in theory.  The reality, however, is that the carrier costs so much that we can’t afford the air wing.  What’s a carrier without an air wing?  A floating paperweight!  What’s a carrier with a reduced air wing?  A marginally useful combat carrier. 

Note: You know that we only have 9 air wings for our 11 carriers, right?  That means we only have a maximum of 9 operational carriers.

Consider, however, if we were to build modern versions of the Forrestal for $2.1B.  Compared to the Ford, that would leave us with $11.4B to buy more carriers and more more/larger air wings.

A modern Forrestal sized air wing (say, 85 aircraft), at an average of $100M per aircraft, just to use a round number, costs around $8.5B – well within our $11.4B savings and still leaving us with $2.9B we could use for another carrier or escorts.

So, why are we building 100,000 ton, $13B+ Fords when we’ve just demonstrated that a modern Forrestal could provide the same combat capability and larger air wings for a tiny fraction of the cost?


Reference – Air Wing Composition

Typical air wing composition in mid-1980’s with number of squadrons, type of aircraft, and number of aircraft per squadron. (1)

2x F-14 Tomcat, 12 ea = 24
2x A-7 Corsair, 12 ea = 24
1x A-6 Intruder, 10-12 plus 4 KA-6D
1x E-2 Hawkeye, 4-6
1x EA-6B Prowler, 4
1x SH-3 Sea King, 6
1x S-3 Viking, 10

Total = 82-86
Combat = 58-60

Typical current air wing composition with number of squadrons, type of aircraft, and number of aircraft per squadron. (1)

4x F-18 Hornet, 10-12 ea = 40-44
1x E-2 Hawkeye, 4-5
1x EA-18G Growler, 5
1x MH-60S Seahawk, 8
1x MH-60R Seahawk, 6-8

Total = 63-70
Combat = 40-44


(1)Wikipedia, “Carrier Air Wing”, retrieved 16-Oct-2019,–1990)_and_the_1983_Invasion_of_Grenada


  1. You know the answer to your rhetorical question of: "what do we get?" But I'll say it anyway.

    We get cover for people in Congress and the Administration to say they support a strong US and support our troops.

    We get 2 & 3 Star Admirals that control more taxpayer money than the 5 star Fleet Admirals of WWII.

    We get Defense Contractors that roll in money and lobby it back to the Congress to keep the money flowing, regardless of performance or capability provided.

    We get cushy retirement jobs, at the Defense Contractors, for all of the O-6s and above who sell their profession short in order for their own career and personal gain.

    Terrible answer and I wish it were not so.

  2. "Reports that say that EMALS doesn't work are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known problems; there are elevator problems we know. We also know there are arresting gear unknowns; that is to say we know there are some DBR problems we do not know. But there are also electrical unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of the Ford, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones" To paraphrase Rumsfeld the Wise.

    1. Note that the Ford has not launched aircraft in over two years! The results of the last test run:

      • Testing to date involved 747 shipboard launches and demonstrated EMALS capability to launch aircraft planned for the CVN 78 Air Wing.

      • Through the first 747 shipboard launches, EMALS suffered 10 critical failures. This is well below the requirement of 4,166 Mean Cycles Between Critical Failures, where a cycle represents the launch of one aircraft.

      And the system has never launched "heavy" aircraft full of bombs and external fuel tanks. The key part is that a faulty EMALS is not good enough. If the top speed was suppose to be 35 knots but it only does 32 knots, well okay. If an elevator breaks down every month, well okay.

      But with EMALS a failure means a cold cat launch, dumping a $80 million aircraft into the sea! The last testing meant a deployed carrier would lose two aircraft a month! Compared to one aircraft a decade with steam.

      This is why they focus on the shaft bearings and elevators problems, to delay aircraft launches for a few more years until leaders can retire and the 3rd and 4th Fords are almost complete. Someone needs to demand the Ford do a series of fully-loaded launches ASAP to test the new software we are told fixed the problem.

    2. "Note that the Ford has not launched aircraft in over two years!"

      Yes. The post assumed that all the Ford's equipment works as designed. To compare the Ford's current state to … well … anything, would be pointless. So, the comparison in the post is the best case comparison for the Ford and it still comes out poorly. I'm assuming that the problems will, eventually, get fixed. If some of the Ford's problems can't be fixed then the situation is even worse.

    3. Does that sailor we launched last April count as an aircraft? ;)

    4. On a more serious note, at what point do we just cut bait on the Ford if we can't get it operational?

    5. "at what point do we just cut bait on the Ford if we can't get it operational?"

      Well, here you see the deviousness of the Navy. We can't just 'cut bait' on the Ford. Doing so would mean abandoning THREE Fords in various stages of construction. The Navy, with no proven design, committed to three Fords and now the trio represent insurance of a sorts against cancellation of the Ford. We simply can't afford to 'cut bait' on three already committed and under construction carriers.

      The Navy may be incompetent about naval matters but they certainly know how to game the system to get what they want.

    6. Agree but very "ballsy", in a malfeasance way!!! As you have said and I concur, without EMALS, YOU HAVE A 100K TON PAPERWEIGHT! Ford can/could manage with reduced "this and that" BUT no EMALS, NO CARRIER! So to double DOWN on 2 more carriers when USN still hasn't figured out how to get the first one to work, wow, that's some serious risky action! It better work!!!

    7. "to double DOWN on 2 more carriers when USN still hasn't figured out how to get the first one to work, wow, that's some serious risky action!"

      Hardly surprising, though. The Navy committed to 55 LCS before the first was even designed! Then, faced with years into the program and no functioning modules, they continued building LCSes instead of stopping or even pausing to wait for module development to succeed.

      Similarly, they built 3 Zumwalts with no main gun system.

      So, doubling down on carriers is not a surprise. In fact, it would have been a surprise if they hadn't!

    8. Committing to large bulk buys of warships before the first one is ready is not a modern phenomenon. Vinson's 2 Ocean Navy Act in 1940 committed us to 18 brand new, unproven carriers, 7 battleships, and hundreds of smaller vessels in a single stroke of legislation. We got lucky that none of those ideas were duds (possible exception for the Alaskas and Montanas).

    9. "Vinson's 2 Ocean Navy Act in 1940 committed us to 18 brand new, unproven carriers, 7 battleships, and hundreds of smaller vessels "

      To a degree, yes. However, all those vessels were evolutionary extensions of existing ships. The ultimate risk of total failure to be useful was very low, almost non-existent. We also knew a war was coming so the buildup was pretty much mandatory. Finally, the Act was more of a budgetary commitment with the specific ships to be filled in later than an upfront commitment to a specific class of unproven ship type although, yes, some specific ships were committed but, again, they were evolutionary.

    10. Fair enough. I just wanted to say that the problem with modern procurement isn't bulk buys of ships, but rather a desire to embrace technology for the sake of technology before it matures or we have a solid CONOPS for it.

    11. "I just wanted to say that the problem with modern procurement isn't bulk buys of ships, but rather a desire to embrace technology"

      It's a combination of two, probably. There's nothing wrong with embracing technology for its own sake, AS LONG AS YOU ONLY BUILD ONE (prototyping)! What the Navy has done wrong is to embrace technology for its own sake and combine it with bulk buys: the LCS commitment to 55 ships before the first was even designed, the Zumwalt commitment to 32 ships before the first was even designed, the commitment to 3+ Fords before the first even works, and so on.

      So, you're absolutely right about the technology fixation and I think the Navy just compounds the problem by attaching bulk buys to it!

      Are you suggesting we should be doing more one-off prototyping? If so, is there a particular type of ship or technology that you'd like to see prototyped?

    12. Hmm. I think we need a survivability test bed ship that can test new types of material in armor, new configurations of armor and bulkheads, and perhaps different arrangements of point defense systems as well as tactics and procedure in damage control in realistic combat conditions.

      The PR people have long said that the Mk57 VLS does better than the Mk41 under fire by blowing any secondary explosion outwards rather than into the hull. Why don't we test that further by mocking up a Mk57 full of Standards and ESSMs in an unmanned hull and shooting at it with a variety of modern anti-ship missiles compared to a similar test with a Mk41? It would be terribly expensive but I'd rather learn the result now rather than when a Burke or Zumwalt full of sailors get hit by a real enemy.

    13. "I think we need a survivability test bed ship"

      An excellent idea and there's precedent for it since we have a weapons test ship.

      Alternatively, much of the testing could be done with land mock ups. For example, armor and bulkhead arrangements could be mocked up on a test stand and shot with weapons.

      We have a full fledged flooding test system for training. It's pretty impressive. That same concept could be adapted to other damage control types and scenarios.

      Good thoughts.

  3. In your Hunter Killer ASW Groups post from last month, we had this exchange:

    Me, "The procurement cost for their larger 40,000 ton LX carrier was $4.2B."

    You, "Exactly!!!! The 40,000 ton America class LHA can operate around 25 aircraft and does not have cat/trap capability and costs $4B. You're proposing a larger carrier (30-35 aircraft) WITH CAT/TRAP capability (more cost). THAT'S GOING TO COST A GOOD DEAL MORE! Hence, $6B-$8B. Plus, when was the last time the Navy built a ship that didn't run hugely overbudget? Heck, $6B-$8B might be underestimating!"

    I'm not trying to dump on you, but $2.1 billion is overly optimistic for a large conventional carrier.

    I'd rather see the Navy continue the Nimitz class with improvements using proven technologies. But, we're pretty far down the road with the Ford class to make a change back now.

    1. "I'm not trying to dump on you, but $2.1 billion is overly optimistic for a large conventional carrier."

      It is! It's hugely, ridiculously overoptimistic. So why did I say it? Because we're talking about two different realities. On this blog I talk about what is and what should/could be. The two are rarely the same and usually differ by quite a bit.

      In this case, $2.1B IS WHAT WE ACTUALLY PAID for the Forrestal. We did it. It happened. It's historical fact. It's not speculation. We actually did it. That suggests that we can do it again if we weed out all the things that have caused carrier costs to rise faster than inflation. This, then, is the should/could be case.

      If, on the other hand, we change nothing and simply place an order for a modern Forrestal tomorrow, it will cost somewhere around $10B (neglecting design costs). That's the current reality.

      You see? I deal with both the current reality and the should/could be reality. This sometimes causes confusion for readers.

      I know you read the recent "Carrier Cost" post. You saw that carrier costs rose by almost $2B over and above inflation just during the Nimitz production run and rose by several billion for the Ford. Why do you think Nimitz costs rose so much? We didn't add any significant, new equipment to account for the increase. In fact, during that run our electronics and computing costs decreased (electronics get cheaper all the time - there's some "law" postulated about that that I can't recall off the top of my head). The point is that there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to build a new Nimitz for the same cost as early, cheaper Nimitzes. The same reasoning applies to the Forrestal. We did it once and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to do it again. We just need to identify why the unjustified, unnecessary costs crept in and eliminate them.

    2. In large part, this is all predicated on the assumption that costs haven't increased above the rate of inflation. I looked at the historical pay for an O-6 and a O-3 from 1955 and compared that to today's rates to make an estimate.

      In 1955, the monthly base pay rate for an O-6 and an O-3 at over 18 years of service was $717.60 and $499.20, respectively. Adjusting for inflation that equates to $6,831.55 and 4,752.38, respectively.

      The monthly base pay for the same ranks and service time today is $10,075.20 and $6,916.80, respectively. That is an increase of about 45% above the rate of inflation. If labor costs increased above the rate of inflation, I would assume the same is true for material costs. How much needs to be determined.

      A couple of years ago, Rand estimated the recurring cost of a Forrestal-class size nuclear carrier (CVN LX) at $9.4 billion. Assuming a 20% reduction for conventional propulsion, that reduces to recurring cost to $7.1 billion.

      The Queen Elizabeth carriers, similar in size to the Forrestal class, cost about $4.2 billion after converting to dollars and adjusting for inflation based on Wiki data. (I don't know if any NRE is included.) But, they lack cats and traps, plus a landing system and everything else needed for a CATOBAR carrier. Assuming that's another 20% for that equipment, that equals $5.04 billion.

      My estimate for a Forrestal-sized conventional carrier is $5 to $7 billion.

    3. "Rand estimated the recurring cost of a Forrestal-class size nuclear carrier"

      One of the problems with that statement is that it envisions a modern carrier of Forrestal size whereas I'm suggesting a modern version of a Forrestal. Huh? What's the difference?

      The difference is that a modern carrier that happens to be Forrestal size will have all the features of a modern ship like spacious berthing, lounges, ship-wide Internet for the crew, duplicate facilities for women, coffee bars, TVs, gyms and exercise equipment, dual band radar or some equally over-the-top radar that is totally unnecessary, and on and on. In contrast, I'm envisioning a Forrestal with minimal berthing comforts, no entertainment equipment or facilities, no TVs, simple radar (carriers don't radiate in combat anyway!), and so on - a bare bones, basic, functional combat aircraft carrier not a glorified cruise ship. Take away from the design anything that doesn't contribute to combat. Let's see RAND price THAT out!

      Before you even begin to tell me that modern sailors won't stand for bare bones amenities on a 10 month cruise, I've already answered that - we shouldn't be doing deployments! Recall that post?

    4. "Before you even begin to tell me that modern sailors..."


      I think you are bit over the top its not like US subs were not comparably comfortable back in WW2 and yet remained effective (well when they got good torpedoes).

      But in any case even bare bones the simple fact naval construction cost have been rising over CPI and commercial shipbuilding for years and everywhere. I really don't think its the workout rooms.

      A more spartan design is fine I suppose, but realistically its probably the no nuclear power and smaller displacement that would save money by removing the dependence on one vendor.

      More importantly restore the MMA to what Nixon signed and the back ground of a viable civilian industry will very much help.

      I'm not really arguing but I would adjust the Forrestal by at least another billion. I mean for example I think you would want more than just 2 point defense systems on the the ship. In any case its still a bargain. I just don't think w/o a decent civilian industry you are going to be able to just use a CPI adjustment.

      I'd don't see why the cost of the 2 non built fords could be eaten. So we have one uber expensive test bed. So there are 2 more hulls building has no one in Congress had econ 101, why do they fall for the fallacy of sunk costs. The Ford is demonstrably not a fit design. The sunk cost wasted on it have no meaning in considering a good design.

    5. Add

      Is there reason not to use the more refined Kitty Hawk class as the reboot type?

    6. "A more spartan design is fine I suppose"

      Fine??? It's the key to affordable shipbuilding! There should be NOTHING on a ship that isn't contributing to combat.

      "its probably the no nuclear power and smaller displacement that would save money by removing the dependence on one vendor."

      Bingo!!! "Removing the dependence on one vendor"!!!! Suddenly, you have competition and motivation for the shipbuilder to control costs and not allow costs to rise faster than inflation. Suddenly, you have motivation for the shipbuilder to meet or beat schedules. Suddenly, you have motivation for the shipbuilder to improve quality and maybe, just maybe, hypothetically, talking crazy now, offer a warranty on their work. Suddenly, you have motivation for the shipbuilder to invest in their own infrastructure to produce ships faster and better. Suddenly, you have the potential for multiple shipyards to provide maintenance and repair support for battle damage. And on and on.

    7. "In contrast, I'm envisioning a Forrestal with minimal berthing comforts, no entertainment equipment or facilities, no TVs,. . ."

      I'm envisioning a very unhappy and unproductive crew. A carrier can go to sea for 6 to 8 months of a time. There needs to be a certain standard of comfort for the crew. Besides, many of the crew continue their eduction through distance learning and some even want to keep in touch with family.

    8. Let me repeat my post from the comment above:

      "Before you even begin to tell me that modern sailors won't stand for bare bones amenities on a 10 month cruise, I've already answered that - we shouldn't be doing deployments! Recall that post?"

    9. I recall the post, but we might not operate carriers like that in the next war. During the Vietnam War we deployed carriers for 6 to 8 months at a time with them spending about 4 weeks at sea and 1 week in port during their deployment.

      It's one thing to live in spartan conditions for a month at a time, but to do so repeatedly with a week of rest in between is quite another. At the same time, with a fewer number carriers that we have today, I would expect them to deploy more often because of their offensive capability.

    10. "Vietnam War"

      That wasn't a war, at least not a naval war. That was a live fire munitions delivery exercise.

      "fewer number carriers that we have today, I would expect them to deploy more often because of their offensive capability."

      Absolutely not! Carriers don't operate that way in war. They are tasked with missions, not deployments. They go out, execute the mission, and return to replenish and repair. Check the entire history of WWII. In fact, I did a post on the Enterprise's history during the first year and it was striking how little time was spent at sea.

      Ships don't do deployments in war. It's that simple.

    11. "In large part, this is all predicated on the assumption that costs haven't increased above the rate of inflation."

      I've been thinking about this statement and you're largely correct. I do believe that the cost of a valve or pump hasn't increased above the rate of inflation since the Forrestal. There is no logical reason to believe that it would since there is nothing special about it or the components (wire, shafts, bearings, castings, etc.) that make it up. If anything, our more modern and, supposedly, efficient manufacturing techniques should have reduced the cost, if anything.

      There probably are some highly specialized pieces of equipment that have no commercial counterpart that may have increased in real price due to reduced build (hence, reduced demand) rates but those should be relatively few and their cost increases ought to roughly be compensated by cost decreases in other equipment like electronics.

      So, yes, no real increase is the basis of my assumption.

      I honestly can't explain the real cost increases seen in carrier construction. Reduced build rate may explain much (all???) of the increase … or not.

      Do you have any speculation on the source of the real cost increases?

  4. Not sure if possible or even where to start, maybe nobody knows (does even the manufacturer even know? They should!) About the breakdown of costs: structure, labor costs, steel, composites,radar,electronics, power plant, catapults, gear,etc....that would be fascinating to find out the breakdown of costs from Forrestal to Ford....

    1. The breakdown of costs can be vaguely glimpsed in the Navy SCN budget documents which describe categories of equipment (though not GFE which are a significant contributor of costs).

      The larger problem and challenge is to determine which of those costs are reasonable and which are not. Just seeing that an item costs $x doesn't tell you whether that cost is reasonable. If the private sector pays 1/10 the cost then its unreasonable.

      Consider that the Nimitz class costs increased almost $2B over inflation during the production run even though there was no significant new equipment added. Why did the costs increase? That's what we need to know and just seeing a line item cost list won't tell us that unless we just happen to know what the equivalent common, commercial cost for the items are. I know there's the milspec issue which raises costs but for the Nimitz run, milspec was in place the entire run and costs still increased over inflation.

      Did that make sense?

  5. Sort a.

    I think seeing an historical long term trend would help. Were the costs just normal inflation, did they rise across the board or just 1 major item? Yes, Comparing to civilian world would be difficult since milspec and some systems don't have equivalents. I'm not enough a naval expert but would a civilian super tanker be the closet to what the costs of a carrier are, maybe in terms of labor and structural costs? I guess I'm trying to figure out if the costs are spread around or has structural part has remained the same but the more modern stuff like radar and FORD EMALS as example are the major costs increases....if the relative easy stuff like steel,structures, basic guts have stayed constant, maybe we are doing this wrong, maybe we could build a basic carrier at a far cheaper price tag by not filling it up with all the expensive out of control price gear.

  6. So, it costs more money, has a larger crew (thought automation brought that down), all to carry less aircraft?

  7. Assuming that the "first in class" issues are real and slow production, the build times for Nimitz and Ford are comparable if you go by "keel laying to commissioning". The catch is that if you look at "keel laying to first deployment", the Ford misses the mark by YEARS, and still isnt a complete, functional ship. Youve mentioned before about the budgetary games, and how the build times are lengthened for a lower per-year cost, but drive up overall cost. Having a significant portion of Newport News on the job for extra years has to account for a significant chunk of change...

    1. I posted it a few weeks ago when I compared Ford to Enterprise build times and operations. Not only was Enterprise built faster, first nuke carrier figures in my book as pretty experimental BUT Enterprise went into operations so much faster! Years over potential Ford real deployment. Sad....we are spending so much for a whole lot less.

  8. Somthing Ive never had an understanding of, is the different kinds of contracts..."fixed-plus", "incentive-", etc... With no competitor, how much profit is NN making?? Are we taxpayers a victim of monopoly pricing, and a built-in over-and-above cost increase??

    1. This: Are we taxpayers a victim of monopoly pricing, and a built-in over-and-above cost increase??

      We sure are. There is only one company building carriers today. What is needed are a couple of more yards building them. Even if they aren't the Ford Class. But I wonder, does the US even have the industrial capacity to actually pull it off ?

      The late Senator McCain often mentioned in some of his reports, again.. The Lack of competition to bring down costs.

      I would imagine the profit margin is high.

    2. Again first restore the MMA so you restore the commercial basis for construction. Basically without some kind of massive up front subsidy its seem difficult to imagine how you get another yard to bite on building facilities to make a modern Forestall with only the hope of contract. And secure all the workers necessary.

      I suppose the Navy could just build one and lease it out.

    3. "Basically without some kind of massive up front subsidy its seem difficult to imagine how you get another yard to bite on building facilities"

      Please don't think that I'm naïve enough to believe that a single Forrestal contract would solve all the US shipbuilding issues! As you correctly note, there is much work to do to restore our shipbuilding industry.

      My purpose, in this post, is to point out a better carrier design that we should begin aiming for - to provide a better goal for the Navy rather than blindly continuing the death spiral we're in.

  9. I think there is a big desire of many "to go home again" with Nimitz, but the reality is home stopped being home a long time ago. They had to move to a new design just to re-establish the weight margin. The goof appears to be the leap to all electric too early. Take that out of the equation and there might be some manufacturing issues, but not technological hurdles. Too bad its fundamental to the DNA of the ship.

  10. "weight margin"

    Never heard of this. Tell me about it.

    1. The Nimitz class has a natural list plus the class gained weight over time using up the margin. The bulbous bow on Reagan and Bush help as do the reduction in landing wires, removal of the CIWS mounts etc. Ford restores the margin partially by building the hull from HS-65 and HS-115 steel.

    2. I'm aware of the list issue but that was a design mistake not a weight margin issue.

      At a glance, the reference you link discusses the list but not weight margins. Do you have any reference to weight margins?

    3. Yep.

    4. Andy, good link. Good info. Thanks!

  11. One problem with all these programs (F35,LCS,FORD,ETC) is they drag on for so long, it's tough to remember or find articles when the Darn things started! I was curious, was it ever considered to look at installing parts of new tech in a upgraded Nimitz? Did they look into installing 1 EMALS and 3 regular steam catapults? Or other new systems on Nimitz to break them down BEFORE installing them in a new design? I just can't remember how the FORD started and the process that made us get here....being Googling to see if I can find the genesis and early attempts at new carrier.

    Can't find anything on weight margin retrieval, never saw anything about that.

  12. Went thru CNO archives (I need to read some more of them!) to find my old post on build time and deployment, I added Forrestal. The dates are approximate BUT very damning towards today USN carrier builds.

    USS FORRESTAL: (Interesting tidbit, design was modified a few times, first American aircraft carrier to be constructed with an angled flight deck, steam catapult, and an optical landing system, so she was pretty new and untested design.)
    14 July 1952: keel laid
    11 December 1954: launched
    1 October 1955: commissioned
    1 year of intensive training
    7 November 1956:she put to sea from Mayport to operate in the eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis
    1957: training North Atlantic to face Soviet Navy
    Summer 1958: put to sea as back up for Lebanon crisis

    USS Enterprise CVN-65:
    1958: keel laid
    Sept 1960: launched
    Nov 1961: commissioned
    Jan 1962: 3 month shake down cruise
    Oct 1962: Participates in Cuban crisis blockade!
    1963-1964: deploys on it's 2nd and 3rd deployment.
    Dec 1965: First strike against a target in Vietnam.
    (I can't believe they built her or deployed so fast so maybe I'm wrong! Stunning compared to today.)

    USS FORD CVN-78:
    Aug 2005: ceremonial weld
    2007: big components are assembled
    Nov 2009: keel laying
    Oct 2013: launched
    July 2017 commissioned (LOL!)
    2019/2020: Post shakedown availability cruise?
    2021-2022: 1st deployment?

    FORD timeline is really bad compared to Enterprise and Forrestal. Both could be considered very new designs with unproven tech, very similar to how we few FORD.

    From keel laying to first major crisis: Forrestal was ready to go to war in 6 years (Lebanon crisis), Enterprise was ready depending on how capable one thinks she was, 5 (Cuba) to 7 years(Vietnam deployment). Ford: we are looking at earliest "real?" deployment in 2021, that's 12 years and I'm being generous, I don't think she will deploy on 2021 or it will be a joke of a deployment with a bunch of problems/very reduced state of operations, basically, she will be a cruise ship.....

    Honestly, does anyone really believe FORD will be really ready in 2021 for war like Forrestal/Enterprise were when they deployed for the first time?!?

    Big take away IMO, surprise, USN should NEVER have put so much new tech on Ford. They should have put some new tech on a modified Nimitz to mature most of it on a proven design.....

    1. "Went thru CNO archives (I need to read some more of them!)"

      Good for you! Of course, most people print the posts out and have them bound into a book that they carry with them for ready reference. Just saying ...

    2. "USN should NEVER have put so much new tech on Ford. "

      On the one hand, you could say that the Navy learned their lesson about new tech and that's why they've required the new frigate to be an existing design. On the other hand, you could say that it required at least three straight dismal failures with new tech (LCS, Zumwalt, Ford) to get the Navy to learn a lesson.

      Of course, on the other, other hand you could say that the Navy hasn't leaned any lesson and the only reason they went with an existing frigate design was because they scared of a fourth straight failure and what Congress would do to their budget and the moment they have another opportunity they'll go right back to piling on new tech.

  13. Maybe just get rid of the flight decks and aviation gear altogether and convert them to modern battleships, complete with a 24 Trident SLBM launch system. Turn them into strategic assets.

  14. CNO would note your costs for Forrestal v Ford are apples to oranges figures, as Forrestal is conventionally powered and Ford is nuclear powered, with all its associated nuclear costs not included in build cost.


    "The Navy often uses commercial industry to dismantle and recycle its non-nuclear ships, including aircraft carriers, such as ex-USS Constellation and ex-USS Ranger completed in 2017. Navy officials noted that the cost to the government in recycling recent ships has been minimal—ranging from 1¢ to $6 million—because of the resale value of their scrap metal."

    "Following the retirement of CVN 65 in 2012, the Navy began preparing the ship for dismantlement and disposal in a process called inactivation. These inactivation activities—which Navy officials stated cost $863 million to complete—included removing the nuclear fuel from the ship’s reactors and taking off equipment and other materials in preparation for dismantlement of the ship."
    "Navy preliminary cost and schedule estimates Naval shipyard $1.05 billion-$1.55 billion, start 2034, 10 year program -- Commercial shipyard $750 million-$1.4 billion, start 2024, 5 year program, still to be resolved dispute nuclear regulatory authority, Naval Reactors (Department of Energy) and civilian Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

    Bottom line nuclear carriers bear additional cost of disposal ~$2 billion and the four year mid-life RCOH, Refueling & Complex Overhaul, cost of nuclear refueling of reactors is not broken out of the RCOH cost.

    PS the Ford $13.1/ 13.5 billion in 2008 dollars for Phase I build, "$16.2 billion in 2019 dollars". Phase II build costs not included, completing the 367 unfinished compartments and fitting "mission" electronic equipment.

    CBO An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2020 Shipbuilding Plan

    "The Navy’s current estimate of the total cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship of the CVN-78 class, is $13.1 billion in nominal dollars appropriated over the period from 2001 to 2018. CBO used the Navy’s inflation index for naval shipbuilding to convert that figure to $16.2 billion in 2019 dollars, or 25 percent more than the corresponding estimate when the ship was first authorized in 2008. Neither the Navy’s nor CBO’s estimate includes the $5 billion in research and development costs that apply to the entire class. "

    Navy has never disclosed actual dollar cost of Ford Phase I build $15 billion?, only in nominal dollars $13.1-13.5 billion, CBO in 2019 dollars $16.2 billion.

    A ROM cost estimate of Ford, so many unknows, Phase I build $15.0B?, Phase II build $0.5B?, nuclear refueling $0.5B?, disposal $2.0B?, total ~$18 billion? excludes billions of R&D.

    1. "your costs for Forrestal v Ford are apples to oranges figures"

      Yes and no.

      Yes, you're correct that the one includes nuclear and the other conventional power so that precludes a direct construction cost comparison, IF WE WERE LOOKING TO BUILD AN EXACT DUPLICATE OF THE FORD - but we aren't.

      So, no, you're not correct. What I'm directly comparing is combat capability, not cost. I'm looking at two ships whose purpose is identical: combat. They were built to do the same task. Whether one has TVs or coffee bars or nuclear power or gold plated fittings is irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is their combat capability. If they both provide the same combat capability but we can build one for $2.1B and the other for $13B+, the choice seems obvious and that was the purpose of the post comparison.

      The rest of your nuclear related cost discussion is, as all such discussions are, pointless because it all depends on what factors you choose to include or exclude. You excluded all of the conventional power added costs, for example. If you were just tossing out some information, that's fine. If you were trying to make a case for or against nuclear power then you left out most of the relevant factors. I don't blame you. People do extensive studies on this and write voluminous reports and this is just a comment. Every study I've seen the purports to fairly assess the comparative costs results in a wash. The costs work out to be the about the same, just distributed in vastly different ways. For that reason, I'm pretty much ambivalent about the nuclear/conventional debate although I guess I lean a bit toward conventional due to combat damage issues associated with a nuclear plant.

      Finally, yes, the Ford construction costs are significantly understated and obscured by various Navy accounting and delayed construction practices. I have to pick some number to work with so I picked a commonly cited, if understated, number. That just makes the point of the post even more emphatic!

    2. @Nick Focusing on the nuclear component of a carrier for "huge costs" during build, and RCOH especially, just isnt accurate, relatively speaking... Ive countered this repeatedly.
      New construction cost per reactor is approx $200M. The actual refuelling portion of an RCOH (Vinson cited) was $512M in 2019 dollars. As CNO said, when you need other assets to support a conventional carrier (and their costs) its basically a wash. While the dismantlement costs arent present in a conventional carrier, the costs cited seem ridiculously high. So while there needs to be budgetary foresight about dismantlement,(and probably some common sense thought put into how to slash those costs) to a point, it is the "cost of doing business", and if its part of fielding the best possible weapons, then so be it. Note: Im not a nuc advocate "per se", it just seems that with all factors weighed, it seems the better choice.....

    3. To be fair...I found a comprehensive, although old (1998) GAO report on the costs of nuclear vs conventional carriers, that put the conventional version in a very good light. Its figures showed about a 30% higher life cycle cost of CVNs...

    4. Do agree the with your basic argument on the combat capability of the Forrestal compared to the Ford. My point is that for ~ $18 billion cost of the nuclear of Ford the Navy could have funded two conventional powered Forrestal size carriers at todays prices, think $6 billion target cost might be possible if rigorous cost control was enforced plus balance to partly fund air wing.

      Definitely think your $10 billion on high side for new Forrestal, and with modern systems be able halve the crew size numbers if not more whereas the Ford nuclear plant still requires large crew and the nuclear engineers paid at premium rates.
      @ CNO " In contrast, I'm envisioning a Forrestal with minimal berthing comforts, no entertainment equipment or facilities, no TVs, simple radar (carriers don't radiate in combat anyway!), and so on - a bare bones, basic, functional combat aircraft carrier not a glorified cruise ship. Take away from the design anything that doesn't contribute to combat. Let's see RAND price THAT out!"
      @Kath "A more spartan design is fine I suppose"
      @CNO "Fine??? It's the key to affordable shipbuilding! There should be NOTHING on a ship that isn't contributing to combat."

      To help fund the additional larger air wing, with two modern Forrestal's you have the annual cost saving of two thousand + crew numbers (~$250,000 x 2,000 + $500 million per year)

      PS 2005 RAND study estimated full cost of a military member per year at $174K per year when you include all the deferred costs, special pays, and subsidized benefits such as the commissary (RAND "The Cost of a Military Person-Year" (PDF page 31 of 153). Inflation calculator ups that $227K , but military pay and tricare costs have had higher rates of inflation between 2005 and 2019 so assume $250,000 which think on low side.
      @Fighting Irish figures "The monthly base pay for the same ranks and service time today is $10,075.20 and $6,916.80, respectively. That is an increase of about 45% above the rate of inflation. If labor costs increased above the rate of inflation, I would assume the same is true for material costs. How much needs to be determined."

  15. I'd be fine with nuclear powered carrier construction being phased out. This might seem strange coming from me because I was a nuclear plant operator/mechanic on a carrier. I just no longer see the combat capability increased in proportion to the increased costs by going nuclear. It's not just the construction costs, there's also maintenance, manning, and disposal. Conventional powered ships can be "moth-balled" and returned to later service if needed.

    1. I like that thought, old carriers were mothballed, nuke ones aren't. Yeah, probably never really was much of a chance they would be reactivated but today with China rising, wouldn't it be nice to have extra 4 carriers laying around? Wouldn't be cheap but in a pinch, for maybe a billion or less, you could get them to at least be usefull for 1 last war cruise. Now, not sure how many navy aircraft can be taken out of storage...

    2. I would like to see a build-time comparison.

      I expect dropping some gas turbines into a hull will be less time consuming than building and commissioning a nuclear propulsion plant.

      And the obvious fact that more yards could do it.

    3. "Conventional powered ships can be "moth-balled" and returned to later service if needed."

      An excellent point and one that falls outside the strict cost debate. Of course, we haven't kept the conventional carriers in reserve and there's no reason to believe the Navy would ever do so in the future so that point may be moot.

    4. We used to keep more ships mothballed, including carriers, not so much these days. The officers want to command new shiny ships, not old refurbished ones. But in wartime, our best ships will be sent into battle zone, the moth-balled ones can be used to relieve ships in less hostile areas. Moth-balled ships can also act as a stop gap while more new ones are being built. Even though this falls outside "cost" debate, it is a capability issue. There would also be fewer difficulties in repairing battle damage on a conventional ship.

    5. The disappearance of the Reserve Fleets could be a real historical mistake if there was a large scale naval war in the Pacific.
      In WW2 the US was able to quickly activate hundreds of ships from her reserve fleet, as were the British, particularly auxiliary ships and WW1 era destroyers which were crucial in the early stages of the war as escort vessels.

      Carriers like the Kittyhawk, older Ticonderoga cruisers and Perry frigates are all being rushed out of US Navy mothball fleets, which seems incredibly shortsighted.
      If a war did break out, why wouldn't the US Navy would immediately need all the escort vessels she could get her hands on (Perrys and older Ticonderogas would be ideal for escorting convoys across the Western Pacific and possibly on to Guam).

      And what if the Navy loses one or more carriers in the early stages of conflict? It takes years to build a Ford class carrier, and they are currently not even deployable.
      Wouldn't it have been potentially very useful to have a few of the Kittyhawk class carriers available for a much faster refit to reinforce the Pacific fleet?

    6. I'm less worried about losing a carrier in war than I'm worried about losing our naval aviators. In WWII we did a number on the Japanese A/C carriers. But even at the end of the war they still had some. What they didn't have was capable pilots. The Japanese started the war with a full inventory of experienced pilots a planes. We have neither.

    7. "I'm worried about losing our naval aviators"

      We don't have, and won't start a war with, experienced combat pilots. What we have are experienced flyers which is quite a bit different than experienced combat pilots.

      Now, we hope that our training is giving our pilots near-combat experience but we really don't know what modern air combat will be like so we may or may not be providing useful training.

      As far as pilot replacement in war, the Japanese had a limited population to draw from, compared to the US, and they had a flawed concept whereby they generally left their experienced pilots on the front lines until they died. The US opted to rotate experienced pilots back to the US to provide training and leadership cadres for new units. We should still be able to do this in a future war so pilot supply is not a problem.

      In contrast, I AM worried about replacing aircraft. In WWII, we could crank out hundreds of aircraft per week. Today, it takes many months (a year or more?) to build a new aircraft. I can see us having loads of pilots and no aircraft. Yes, I'm sure we'll speed up aircraft production somewhat in a war but there's no getting around the fact that it takes much longer to build a plane today.

      I'm also very concerned about our raw material situation (rare earths and metals). We could find ourselves limited by some critical component that brings aircraft production to a halt.

  16. The post war Essex and the Forrestal are the two "sweet spots" in carrier design on the cost/capability curve. This discussion isn't about light/medium carriers so I'll leave the Essex alone for now. The Forrestal is the entry point into super carriers; it can handle all aspects of naval aviation. I just don't see much capability beyond it with the larger, more expensive CVN's. I'd rather have more money left over for aircraft, parts, escorts, repair ships, etc. With the nukes, we design them for a 50 year life span, with an overhaul and refuel half way through, and in the end still have to figure out a way to dispose of it. Let's build a modern version of the Forrestal with a projected 25 year life span. If we get a few more years out of it, fine. If we find we need to make minor upgrades, do it on the next ones.

    1. "Let's build a modern version of the Forrestal with a projected 25 year life span."

      Finally, someone buying into my limited lifespan philosophy! Hop on the bandwagon with me. At the moment, there's lots of room.

    2. I remember hearing during early building of the Ford, there were design considerations toward being able to accommodate future technology upgrades. Sounds good, but how do we know what those technologies will be a few decades from now? Build for what we need now, by the time it's obsolete, it will be nearing the end of service life, build the next slightly modified class with the new upgrades. The ocean is a rough operating environment; building for long term ocean exposure is a daunting (costly) task. Or....we could build for a 100 year service life and try to anticipate what upgrades will be required a century from now.

    3. "able to accommodate future technology upgrades."

      The flaw in that concept is that the Navy has consistently refused to upgrade ships, claiming that the ships themselves are somehow too old to upgrade and that the Navy would rather have new ships (duh!). So, with that history, what's the point of building in future upgradability if the Navy won't actually upgrade?

      Consider the list of ships the Navy has declined to upgrade: Perrys, Los Angeles class subs (some retired with less than 20 yrs service!), Tarawa class, Spruances, etc. With suitable upgrades, all of those would still be front line assets.

    4. There comes the ship cost death spiral. "We want ships that can do lots of things with the latest technology, will last many decades, and can be upgraded over its life-span." But then half way through that projected life-span: "This ship is old and obsolete, not worth upgrading. We need a new ship."

  17. My 10 peneth, our Queen Elizabeth class cost somewhere north of £6 for 2. Now they are smaller (65kT compared to 100kT) and dont have cats and traps. Their price was greatly increased by the government by slowing the build to save pounds today but more pounds tomorrow. BUT surely by increasing the build speed, size, adding C&T you (USA) could build a modern conventional carrier for twice what it cost us. This would give you 2 CV's for the price of 1CVN.
    You could even buy our automated weapons handling system that works (not gloting honest)

    1. "You could even buy our automated weapons handling system that works"

      Well, that hurt!

  18. Questions: Is there a reason why a high-end radar needs to be installed directly on an aircraft carrier? Could it be installed on a smaller, simple ship made just for radar and other long range sensors? This radar/sensor ship could just be another escort with a dedicated function. If radar and sensors need to be upgraded, much easier to do it on a small simple ship than a carrier. Is this feasible? I don't have background in radar and other sensors, but it seems to make sense.

    1. Carriers never go anywhere without multiple Aegis escorts so there is no reason for a carrier to have anything more than a navigation radar and a short range AAW radar.

    2. Of course they need to be on the carrier. How will the DF-21's find them without a beacon? ;)

    3. I know you're poking some fun, there, but you unintentionally bring up an important point. For just this reason (broadcasting one's location), carriers do not radiate in combat. That's what the E-2s and escorts are for. So, if we know a carrier won't radiate, why did we put a gazillion dollar Dual Band Radar on the Ford? It will never be used.

  19. Let's look at numbers. Let's take the CBO estimate of Ford costs at $16B. Let's add your air wing of 70 at $100MM each, for another $7B, or $23B in total.

    Now let's look at another way to spend that money. Suppose we did a Nimitz/RAND CVN-LX for $9.5B and a RAND CV-LX for $4.2B. Now let's add 100 aircraft (70 for the Nimitz/CVN-LX and 30 for the CV-LX) at $100MM, or $10B total. Now we have 2 carriers, one nuclear or nuclear/electric hybrid and one conventional, one CATOBAR and one STOVL, with 40% more aircraft, for roughly the same money. Find a way to cut down the cost per aircraft, and you could have even more of them.

    OK, ComNavOps, I know you don't like the CV-LX "Lightning carrier" because it's not the equal of a Nimitz. But it's not going to have to go up against a Nimitz, and it's pretty much the equal or better than anything it might go up against (Russian, Chinese). It would be paired with a Nimitz, the way we did CVLs and CVEs during WWII, to provide a pretty formidable combination.

    Or for a little more, we could up the CV-LX to a QE class. Another concept that might be worth investigating is something like the RN Audacious class. They accommodated cats and traps and a decent air wing.

    As discussed herein, there are advantages to a nuclear carrier and other advantages to a conventional carrier. Having one of each working together could yield some benefits of each.

    My bottom line is that I think we need 12 CVBGs, each with 2 carriers, and I don't see how to get there without going high/low mix on the carriers.

    1. "I don't see how to get there without going high/low mix on the carriers."

      I just described how to get there! Build $2.1B Forrestals instead of Fords. We can have 15-20 Forrestals and won't need any light carriers.

    2. Do you really think we could build Forrestals for $2.1B?

      I'd love it if we could, sister ship Ranger was my first ship and they were damn good carriers. But I'm guessing we couldn't do it for under $7-8B today. Even the QEs come in at about $4B each, and we'd probably want some upgrades, certainly cat and trap.

      Take the last Nimitzes at around $9B and if you go conventional instead of nuke (and that's debatable) that saves about $1B and the smaller displacement saves maybe $2B, so maybe you get down to $6B. I think the RAND CVN-LX is pretty close to what is doable today, and it comes in at $9B. So I think you are between $6B and $9B, and I wouldn't bet on the Navy's ability to come in on the low side of that.

      I think you are probably right. We ought to be able to build a Forrestal for a lot less. But I don't see the Navy doing it.

    3. "Do you really think we could build Forrestals for $2.1B? "

      Do I really think we could do it today? Of course not!

      Do I really think we SHOULD be able to do it today? Of course! We did it before so we know it can be done. We just have to recapture that ability. It starts by not designing luxury cruise ships but, instead, designing stripped down combat ships.

      For sake of discussion, let's say that despite all our best efforts it would still cost double what we once built Forrestal for - so, $4.2B. That doesn't change the point of the post, that we're foolish to build $13B+ Fords when a $4.2B Forrestal gives us the same combat capability.

    4. If we can really build Forrestals for $4.2B, go for it. Based on costs of other carriers (like the RN QE's, add cats and traps) I don't think we can do it for under $6B. Maybe we OUGHT to be able to do so, no argument there, but I don't think we can.

      Looks like the price tag on the Fords is probably going to be $16B apiece. I think we need a high-low mix of carriers to get the numbers we need--some nukes and some conventional, each has its own advantages. The nuke can be a Nimitz or a RAND CVN-LX. Either one runs about $9B in current dollars. That gives us $7B to play with to build a second carrier plus airplanes for it. If we build a Forrestal (or a Kitty Hawk/Constellation, because they have a better flight deck layout with the port elevator moved aft and out of way of the waist cats and landing zone) for $6B, that leaves $1B, which buys about 10 aircraft at $100MM each. Your Midway idea, or something like the old RN Audacious class, might come in around $5B, and that would leave $2B for about 20 aircraft (or more if we can cut aircraft costs). Or we might go the CV-LX "Lightning Carrier" route for about $4B and have $3B left over for 30 more aircraft which pretty much maxes out the CV-LX. One cost advantage is the we could get 9 or 10 by converting already existing LHAs/LHDs to interim CV-LXs at presumably a cheaper price. So we just might be able to build and stock 2 carriers--1 nuke and 1 conventional--for the cost of one Ford. I'd still like to have 12 CVBGs, each with two carriers, so we'd have to commit another $35B or so over 40 years (~$1B/year) to get there.

      That's my conceptual idea. For each Ford build 2 carriers instead--one a cheaper nuke like Nimitz or CVN-LX, and the other a conventionally powered one that is the best you can do with the money you have left. Going from 10 to 12 CVBGs and 9 to 12 air wings will take some selling, but that's what I think we need. But if we don't blow so much on Zumwalts and LCSs, we might be able to get there.

      As far as the argument that you need an oiler to follow the conventional carrier around, well you need an oiler to follow a nuke around if you're going to burn any aviation fuel, and as long as we are a one-fuel navy, you could in theory refuel the conventional carrier from the nuke, although that would be one hairy UNREP. The Brits actually refuel the QE with the oiler to port, so it can be done.

    5. CDR Chip: your last paragraph about refueling. I don't think it would be too difficult. When I was on the Enterprise we would supply other ships in the battle group with fuel. A carrier prefers to have the other ship on its starboard side for better visibility, but we are talking about large ships that are easy to keep eyes on. If you have done underway replenishment/refuel form the bridge, you would know a few details that I don't (I was normally down in the propulsion spaces).

  20. (Don McCollor)..[more a small rant]...We need someone like Admiral Rickover to put the fear of God back in contractors...

    1. We need someone like Rickover to put the fear of God back into the Navy, too!

  21. This is another provocative posting by CNO.

    Seriously, why not conventionally powered ships like the Forrestal?

    Put the money into the air wings instead, that's where the actual combat power is anyway, the carrier is just a floating airfield.

    1. "provocative"

      ???? Provocative???? It's pure common sense! If it seems provocative, it's only because the Navy is so screwed up that we've come to think of stupidity as normal!

      "Put the money into the air wings"

      You've got the right idea!

  22. Is some of the truth coming out? Real first deployment in 2024?!?!?

  23. @NICO

    I was going to post that. The whiny tone of the Navy Secretary is funny in a grim sort of way. What I found most interesting is the contractors back in 2007 were siding with the GAO.

  24. Interesting lecture by CAPT Tal Manvel, former Navy Program Manager for Future Carriers, on the development of the Ford.

    Couple of points:

    1. ComNavOps, he seems to agree with you that the carrier doesn't need that robust a radar. The radars that matter are those on the air defense ships and those on the aircraft, particularly the E-2, which I think he correctly sees as critical.

    2. The whole decision process seems to have revolved around comparing one Ford to one other carrier. Totally lost is the fact that at the cost of one Ford, you could presumably build two other very capable carriers, and therefore the appropriate comparison may be one Ford versus two carriers--one Nimitz and another, maybe your Forrestal or maybe something else. And I don't think the comparisons stack up favorably on that basis.

  25. An aircraft carrier is a bladder of jet fuel wrapped around high
    explosives.The implications are considerable. A plunging hypersonic
    terminally-guided ballistic missile, piercing the flight deck and
    exploding in the hangar deck, would require a year in the repair yards.
    The Russians and Chinese are developing–have developed–missiles
    specifically to take out carriers. Note that the range of some of these
    missiles is much greater than the combat radius of the carrier’s
    aviation. Oops

    1. All warships carry flammable fuel and munitions. What's your point?

      "Note that the range of some of these missiles is much greater than the combat radius of the carrier’s aviation.

      If you've followed this blog (and your comment strongly suggests you haven't), you know that very long range missiles, such as the Chinese DF-21 'carrier killer', are all hype since they completely lack any effective means of targeting.

      So, again, what's your point?

    2. I suggest you read these two books by Andrei Martyanov and you'll see what my point is.

      "Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning"

      "The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs"

    3. Unless you'd like to explain your point, I have far too much to do to spend time reading entire books just to attempt to discern someone's point.

    4. Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal
      The missile is designed as a deterrence measure against United States and NATO warships posing a threat to missile systems in Russia. It is designed to accelerate to hypersonic speed within seconds of launch and perform maneuvers at any time during flight, allowing it to overcome any known United States air or missile defense systems including the MIM-104 Patriot, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, and the Aegis Combat System.[viii] Also, as an ALBM, the missile can be launched from unpredictable locations possibly straining sectored (non-360 degree) radars, like the ones deployed for the Patriot system.
      Unless this is hype, the CBGs are sitting ducks and very expensive ones at that.

    5. There you go. See? Stating your point wasn't that hard and I'm familiar with the missile so I didn't need to read two books. Wasn't that easy?

      As far as the missile, Russia has been known to exaggerate from time to time (or almost all the time!) so I put little stock in any of their claims. As far as I know, the missile has never been tested against a mobile target at anything approaching maximum range. I'm not even aware that it has been tested against a Patriot/THAAD type system or any actual system, for that matter. To the best of my knowledge, it is purely claims and hype on Russia's part. Further, it suffers from the same weakness that every long range weapon does and that is targeting. I assess the weapon as very unlikely to be a legitimate threat at this time. If you choose to believe the Russian claims, you're doing so on the basis of no actual test proof that I'm aware of - not a good basis for belief! Do I need to list all the US weapon systems that had magnificent claims and turned out to be failures? Russia's record is even worse.

      That said, hypersonic weapons (I don't even know of a documented test that proves the missile is hypersonic!) are nothing to scoff at and the Navy is certainly putting effort into devising defenses.

  26. Almost entirely agree, but isn't the air wing comparison confusing?

    If memory serves, the planes a Ford is supposed to carry are larger than those on a Forrester, so I don't think that's just an issue with the ships.

    On the other hand, their cost is absolutely outrageous, no doubt on that.

    1. "the planes a Ford is supposed to carry are larger than those on a Forrester,"

      No. If anything, the opposite. The F-14 Tomcat which was one of the mainstays of the Forrestal air wing was 2 ft longer and 11,000 lbs (empty weight) heavier. The A-6 Intruder was a bit smaller and lighter than the F-18 Super Hornet. The E-2s are the same. The F-35 is about the size/weight of the A-6.

    2. I stand corrected.
      So... The US managed to build a mega-billion-dollar carrier so expensive there's no money left to give her the largest air wing possible?
      The Chinese must be laughing so hard.

    3. "no money left to give her the largest air wing possible?"

      Well done - you've hit on what I consider the real mystery and 'crime' of the Ford program. We've built a carrier larger than the Forrestal/Nimitz to carry a significantly smaller air wing. Why? Setting all the Ford's problems aside, that's the one aspect that I can't understand. A larger carrier for a smaller air wing. Who thought that sounded like a good idea?

      Worse, the F-35 squadrons are supposed to further shrink by 1-2 aircraft each so the air wings and combat aircraft will be even smaller.

      Any theory about the reasoning behind this contradiction? I've got nothing!

    4. Not even sure Ford or JFK can carry F35 till late 2020,maybe 2028?, I'll see if I can find the article but I know Congress wasnt happy to hear that....that's another mystery.

      No clue why carrier getting bigger but air wings getting smaller, it's over sized when all these new modern systems should be lighter and smaller. Doesnt make much sense.

    5. "Not even sure Ford or JFK can carry F35"

      You're correct. It can't, at least not operationally. The Ford lacks the requisite communications, computer support, etc. to effectively utilize the F-35. The Ford also lacks some physical modifications like proper jet blast deflectors, etc. This is just baffling. We've known for decades that the F-35 was coming. Why the Ford was designed without the necessary compatibility equipment is beyond belief.

    6. "The Ford lacks the requisite communications, computer support, etc. to effectively utilize the F-35. The Ford also lacks some physical modifications like proper jet blast deflectors, etc."

      What is the official excuse for this, by the way?

      'Our mega-billion-dollar carrier can't properly handle the plane we're betting so much on because... ???'


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