Monday, December 21, 2020

Ford Update

The Navy has, essentially, stopped releasing any data or information on the Ford, even to DOT&E which has noted that the Navy is no longer providing EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) and AAG (Advanced Arresting Gear) performance and reliability data.


That leaves us to infer the state of the Ford so …  let’s do some inferring!




How is EMALS coming along?  Well, you’ll recall that the last data we had from DOT&E, before the Navy stopped providing data – which should, itself, infer something negative about the system - , showed that the system was failing at a staggering rate.


Out of 747 shipboard launches performed with the EMALS, ten had suffered critical failures. The target reliability average was one critical failure per 4,166 launch cycles. The launch system is over 50 times less reliable than the target failure rate. Every time they try to launch the full complement of airplanes they will have a critical failure.


The landing system also fails every 70-75 times it is used. This is over 200 times less reliable than planned. General Atomics engineers made it impossible to repair the AAG landing failures without shutting down flight operations. The AAG power supply can’t be disconnected from the high-voltage supply while flights continue. (3)


Is the EMALs doing any better, now?


Ford’s EMALS experienced a crash over the summer [June 2020], prohibiting the carrier from performing flight operations for five days. (1)


… the ship’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) suffered a failure that prevented the carrier from launching planes for five days …


On June 2, the crew discovered a fault in the power handling system that connects the ship’s energy-generating turbines to the EMALS power system.


 “After several days of troubleshooting and assessing a fault in the launch system’s power handling elements, embarked EMALS experts and Ford’s crew restored the system to enable the safe fly-off of the air wing on Sunday morning, June 7… (2)


As we have previously noted, the interconnected nature of the catapults assures that if one goes down, they all go down and this was case in this incident.  It is also noteworthy that it required several days of troubleshooting to restore the system enough to fly off the air wing.  The wording seems to suggest that the restoration was a temporary fix although that is far from clear. 


It is also worth noting the presence of ‘embarked EMALS experts’ which would not normally be present during routine operations.  This has two implications:


  • That the troubleshooting and repair was likely beyond the capabilities of the Navy crew.  This does not bode well for combat damage repair efforts.
  • That the presence of embarked experts absolutely indicates that the EMALS is still not working correctly and reliably or else the experts would not need to be on the ship three years into its commissioning and during pre-deployment workups and trials which should be about training for naval operations rather than still struggling to get the EMALS system to perform at basic, contract-mandated levels of reliability.


The inference from the above is that EMALS is still woefully short of contract-mandated levels of performance and reliability.




Okay, what about the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system?


Capt. Josh Sager, the commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8), said Nov. 17 that Ford had all three of its AAG wires operating with no issues for the preceding four to six days. (1)


Cummings [Commanding Officer Capt. J.J. Cummings] described the reliability for both the Dual Band Radar and AAG as getting better throughout every at-sea period. (1)


The fact that Capt. Sager thought it noteworthy enough to publicly state that the AAG had worked for ‘the preceding four to six days’ suggests that this level of performance is exceptional and should be noted.  Proudly noting that the landing gear worked for a few days in a row is extremely worrisome.  It suggests that this is not the norm.


That Capt. Cummings described the reliability of the AAG as ‘getting better throughout every at-sea period’ again strongly suggests that the AAG is a major problem, though slowly improving.


The inference, here, is that the AAG is still woefully short of contract-mandated reliability levels and is at a barely functional level. 


Overall, how is the Ford doing with launches and recoveries?


Since the beginning of 2020, Ford has conducted 5,000 launches and recoveries of aircraft – most of which the crew has done in the last eight months — and is slated to achieve 6,000 by the end of this calendar year, Cummings said. (1)


The question, of course, is not how many total launches and recoveries have been performed but how many have been done between catapult and arresting system failures.  What is the failure rate?  The evidence suggests that the failure rate is still far greater than specified and is likely to continue to be a problem for a few more years, at least.  This is extremely worrisome if the Ford should ever be called to combat.


The evidence suggests that the Ford is not capable of reliable, sustained open ocean launch/recoveries, meaning that the ship has to stay within reach of land divert bases so as not to lose aircraft when EMALS and AAG failures occur.  Three years into commissioning, this is inexcusable and everyone associated with this program should be fired.


Weapon Elevators


So much for launch and recover.  What about those disastrous weapon elevators?


With the seventh of 11 weapons elevators slated for certification before the end of this calendar year, … the remaining four will be completed by the end of April 2021. Newport News Shipbuilding has 200 shipyard workers aboard the carrier to aid in finishing the elevators … (1)


How bad are these elevators that 200 specialist workers are working on them 24/7 and the best projection is that they’ll be ready by the middle of 2021?  What does this suggest for battle damage repair when the Ford doesn’t have 200 weapon elevator engineers on board?






Ford is in bad shape with major systems failing to meet specification.  The worst aspect of the Ford’s launch and recovery issues is that the design is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed from a maintenance perspective.  The individual catapults and arresting gear cannot be electrically isolated and worked on.  The entire carrier must be powered down to work on any single component.


The reliability concerns are exacerbated by the fact that the crew cannot readily electrically isolate EMALS components during flight operations due to the shared nature of the Energy Storage Groups and Power Conversion Subsystem inverters on board CVN 78. The process for electrically isolating equipment is time-consuming; spinning down the EMALS motor/generators takes 1.5 hours by itself. The inability to readily electrically isolate equipment precludes EMALS maintenance during flight operations. (4)


The reliability concerns are magnified by the current AAG design that does not allow electrical isolation of the Power Conditioning Subsystem equipment from high power buses, limiting corrective maintenance on below-deck equipment during flight operations. (4)


This issue will continue to plague Ford throughout its service life since it is not correctable.  This also renders the Ford highly suspect as a viable combat unit.  If this design flaw has been continued into the subsequent ships of the class, we are building a class of carriers that has very poor damage repair capability and can be rendered combat incapable by minor battle damage or even simple, routine electrical or mechanical failures.


Absent any information from the Navy, we are left to quite reasonably infer that the Ford is a floating pile of hot, steaming excrement.  If the Navy would have us believe otherwise then they need to resume releasing performance and reliability data to DOT&E and the public.  The clamp down on data pretty much tells us just how bad the situation is and is reminiscent of the Navy’s response to the epidemic of INSURV failures which led to the Navy classifying the results instead of fixing them.






(1)USNI News website, “USS Gerald R. Ford Making Steady Progress Ahead of Deployment”, Mallory Shelbourne, 24-Nov-2020,


(2)USNI News website, “USS Gerald Ford EMALS Launching System Suffers Fault During Testing Period”, Sam LaGrone, 8-Jun-2020,


(3)Next Big Future website, “Ford Carrier is a Failure With Huge Radar, Elevator, Launch and Landing Problems”, Brian Wang, 31-Oct-2019,


(4)DOT&E FY 2019 Annual Report, 20-Dec-2019


  1. Any update as to when Ford gains the capability to fly the F-35C.

    Any thoughts on the Dec 9 “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels” where understand that Ford class limited to the four in build (think previous plan showed seven), total number of CVN’s reduced to 8 or 9 in fleet and a possible new CVL(ight) class of 0 to 6 ships dependent on “Further study of cost-effective CVL capabilities and capacity required" per the CRS report on the “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress December 10, 2020”

  2. The good news is that, largely owing to the US going down that route, the new big Chinese carrier is also EMALS and will also likely be as fault prone (as I suspect a number of the issues are conceptual as much as they are in the execution)

    1. Sure, lets just rely on that possibility. Should work out fine.

    2. LOL Hope the Chinese didnt see what works and fix the issues.

    3. We'll soon see, the Type 003 supposedly gets launched next year.

  3. Does CVN-79 have the same emals and aag issues as 78 ?
    Will 79s elevators be working any better ?
    Or is the Ford Class doomed to be another Zumwalt class ?
    You know outside the Navy, no product manager with a pulse
    would have ordered 79. It is said G-d works in mysterious ways,the deity could learn a few things from the USN.
    Merry Xmas.

    1. Leave General Dynamics out of this. Their lemons are much smaller.

    2. Would you be mad if China's 003 (under construction, also use EML) becomes fully operational before USS Ford?

      Just a fun question.

  4. For what we can hope will be positive news, do the toilets work now?

  5. Electrical system with a single point of failure. Hmmmmmm...wonder if anyone in the USN remembers the story of the USS South Dakota during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal? Single point of failure in an electrical system is a serious risk in battle!!!

  6. This is almost as depressing as the election results.

  7. "DOT&E which has noted that the Navy is no longer providing EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) and AAG (Advanced Arresting Gear) performance and reliability data."

    Translation: EMALS and AAG have horrible problems that the Navy is not able to fix soon (ever?).

    "the crew cannot readily electrically isolate EMALS components during flight operations [...]
    The process for electrically isolating equipment is time-consuming; spinning down the EMALS motor/generators takes 1.5 hours by itself."

    Translation: Monstrously expensive nuclear warship is unfit for peer war.
    Also, nobody involved with this seems to remember what EMCON means.

  8. How can we have a ship thats been in the water that long, that cant reach any reasonable level of performance?? Shouldn't the Navy, or Congress be threatening to pull the plug on subsequent ships?? Whose actually responsible for the failures, and shouldnt they be held accountable?? General Atomics for instance?? A million dollar a day fine or somthing?? How about a stop work order on JFK, and at least a governmental inquiry into the steam cat/trap supply chain to show that we are serious about building functional ships?? This is beyond absurd... Ford will be a decade old before it can first deploy...

    1. The USA is going to be stuck with four Ford class carriers that stay dock queens for 40-50 years each.

      Even if they fix the issues they can't be risked in a real war because of the electrical system!

  9. Let's face it,even in the best case scenario where all these systems "work" and improve their reliability, its doubtful that these systems will really survive any kind of combat degradation or loss of personal, they are just too "soft" and exquisite. Will be interesting to see what happens with shock tests, how much must be done beforehand and how maintenance must be done money scam though Ford is awesome 👌, perpetual support and you can bet that knowledge and spare parts will be expensive!

    1. Agreed. If these systems cant be made to work pierside, do we expect they're going to tolerate hard usage, battle damage, and lack of maintenance???
      I hate to say it but we're fast track mismanaging our way to having a second or third rate Navy. Quickly. Somebody needs to start making some hard and unpopular choices, like yesterday, or its going to be too late. It might be already.

  10. Let's suppose hypothetically that EMALS and AAG and the weapons lifts work--someday. Exactly how much better is a fully functioning Ford than a fully functioning Nimitz?

    Let's say hypothetically that a Ford costs $13.5B, a Nimitz costs $9B, and a Kitty Hawk would cost $6B (that's probably low for the Ford, and at least ball-park for the Nimitz and K). For the cost of two Fords ($27B) you could build a Nimitz and a KH ($15B) and have $12B left over for more aircraft of an escort squadron. Which would you rather have?

    1. I think the sortie generation and all the other press release filler is overstated, and at end of the day, a Ford is no better. The Nimitz design is old, but the newest iterations were fine tuned. No reason to have walked away from it. If everything worked on the Ford, it would still be questionable to spend the massive extra money on it.
      So yes, Ill take the Nimitz restart. Not fond of the conventional carrier restart due to our demonstrated neglect of the logistics fleet and the extra demands placed on it. Plus I feel that even conventional, somehow the Navy would find a way to make it have a Nimitz pricetag. So Ill trade 2 Fords for 3 Nimitz and an airwing!!

    2. I'd trade 3 Fords for a Nimitz.

    3. "Not fond of the conventional carrier restart due to our demonstrated neglect of the logistics fleet and the extra demands placed on it. Plus I feel that even conventional, somehow the Navy would find a way to make it have a Nimitz pricetag. So Ill trade 2 Fords for 3 Nimitz and an airwing!!"

      ComNavOps has posted analysis (The Nuclear Power Debate) supporting the conclusion that on an all-in basis, a conventional carrier is virtually a push with a nuclear one. I agree with your concerns about the Navy’s ability to inflate prices, and also about the shortage of the logistics fleet, but both of those can be addressed. Not saying they will, but that they can.

    4. I agree... The conventional vs nuclear is prettt much "flip-a-coin". I just lean towards the nuclear, for the fuel logistics issues.

    5. @Lonfo Yes, Id take one fully functional, proven, tested, ready to go-to-war right after commissioning Nimitz over Ford amd its two follow ons...!!!

  11. While we criticize each individual failure of USS Ford, I would like to talk from my experiences of industrial R&D (civilian). I participated in large commercial R&D projects although far less than USS Ford but offer my 2 cents.

    From my opinion, R&D leadership of USS Ford is questionable. Experiments conducted before the final design done were not thorough enough. In the design, there are not sufficient redundancy/spare capacity to allow follow up upgrade/fix. It is first ship thus some technical problems could happen thus in design phase, some redundancy/spare are required which can be removed in second onward if prove unnecessary.

    To make USS Ford run smoothly, electrical power supply system is key. How to allocate electrical power in milliseconds to demand surges is critical. There must be mechanism to ensure 100% success rate.

    Furthermore, damage control is also important and is now masked. For a long time, a US aircraft carrier been successfully attacked is out of many people's mind. With advancement of anti ship missiles (not necessarily just from China), this becomes more and more likely thus how to prevent USS Ford's electrical power system crippled by a small damage (electrical system could). Just a short period of power outage could mean disaster for USS Ford.

  12. Having read a great deal about this problem, the problem seems to be rail alignment. The tolerances for EM systems are tight. They work well ashore and in calm seas, but even in moderate seas the carrier begins to flex and the rails begin to misalign constantly by just a few millimeters. The software is unable to properly manage the power and the results are unpredictable.

    1. So nobody thought about this beforehand? Off the top of my head this looks like a fatal flaw.

    2. "It worked in the laboratory."


    The Navy is looking to retire the Bremerton-based USS Nimitz in 2025 while the Bangor-based USS Ohio would face the same fate in 2026. Hopefully, we can get a functional carrier by then. Otherwise, the prediction of a smaller carrier fleet will come true.

    Problem solved. Lol

    1. Except for the arresting gear and weapons lifts.

    2. Joking apart, how much less fuel / weapons does a ski ramp let you take off with compared to cats?

    3. I read some time ago that Boeing's computer modeling suggested it could go with a full load with 30 knots of wind across the deck. That appeared to be step one in its attempt to woo Indian orders, and this launch would be step two. Obviously this jet was clean and probably light, but it also didn't have 30 knots of wind across the deck.

      I can't find the link now, and any Internet search produces hundreds of articles about this test that would have to sorted through to find it. I am posting tis for discussion only. I have my doubts about how fully loaded one can be.

    4. "how much less fuel / weapons does a ski ramp let you take off with compared to cats?"

      Unknown. The larger issue, at least from the US perspective, is that ski ramp carriers lose their entire bow for aircraft parking. That's around a third of the carrier's length and parking capacity. For US carriers, who store the bulk of the aircraft on deck, that's an issue and would cause severe crowding and probably reduction of air wing size. You'll notice that ski ramp carriers tend to only carry fairly small air wings of 20-30 aircraft or so. Of course, with the ever shrinking US air wings, that's less and less of a problem!

    5. From The Drive website,

      "Dan Gillian, Vice President of the Super Hornet program, said in an interview with Indian defense news and analysis site LiveFist in 2017. "We think we can move around the deck, be very mission capable with a relevant weapons load-out and fuel load-out to give the Navy what they need."

      You'll note the ambiguous phrases, 'mission capable', 'relevant weapons load-out', and 'relevant fuel-out'. That sounds like they're suggesting a functional load but nowhere near a full load which is not surprising. To believe that a ramp can replace the entire launch capacity of a catapult is not realistic.

      It sounds like you can 'jump' a Hornet off a carrier with a few (light) weapons and enough fuel to get to a tanker. Is that worth the trade offs between cats and ramps? I guess that depends on what you want out of your carrier and aircraft.

    6. "It sounds like you can 'jump' a Hornet off a carrier with a few (light) weapons and enough fuel to get to a tanker."

      That works (kind of) for fuel but you're still stuck with few weapons.

    7. Ski jumps look great and sure cheaper than catapults but noticable that you never see any videos of Chinese or Russian jets taking off with anything near a full load...will be interesting now with SH what the real possibilities are! Can it be done or not???

    8. While due to the typical lack of maintenance, and the Navys repeated attempts to retire a carrier early... I wonder what Nimitzs' potential is for being kept active longer. Whats the life left in the reactor?? Is that even the major issue triggering her decommissioning?? Can we just keep her going, say, an extra 4-6 years or so until the Ford/JFK/maybe Enterprise come on line?? I know shes old and tired, and Im not suggesting any SLEP-ish major maintenance period, just literally ignore her decomm date and keep her in the rotation to help cover the shortfall caused by the Fords delays... How about doing the same with her first and second follow-on sisters as well...??

    9. @Jjabtie. She's old and beat, the other carriers are getting used up fast because of the double pumps. Not sure you can get much more out of her, my guess is maybe you could maintain her at a lower reduced status for a few extra years but not actually sail. Just keep her warm in port for emergency deployment but its just a guess. The problem is USN leaders are idiots and don't care.

      IMO, USA is going to be down to 8 carriers sooner than we think, carriers keep getting abused on stupid " deterrance" deployments and Ford is useless for a few more years, if ever...

    10. "you never see any videos of Chinese or Russian jets taking off with anything near a full load"

      To be fair, during peacetime you never see photos of Hornets catapulting with 'full' loads, either! It's just not done during peacetime. Maybe it should be, more often, but that's another issue.

      Also, what we think of as 'full' loads is unrealistic even during war. We have visions of every hardpoint loaded with missiles and bombs and the reality is that would severely limit the combat radius, speed, and maneuverability. Even in combat, weapon loads are generally limited. Take a look at old Desert Storm photos for a more realistic idea.

    11. As a thought, even if Nimitz were not really suitable for full-scale operation any more, would there be value in sustaining it as a training, test, carrier?

      Presumably, and I am happy to be corrected, the crew requirements for relatively short trips out of the harbour for training pilots, testing new aircraft, maintaining pilot currency, etc, etc, would be somewhat less than those required for 6-7 month cruises.

      At the same time, offloading some of these tasks onto a dedicated carrier might free up time on the remaining active carriers to allow them more time for maintenance/readiness etc.

      And if that isn't enough, there might be value in having a carrier that could be modified to test out new systems, like, as a random for instance, an entirely novel catapult technology.

      I find it is extremely difficult to believe that it would have been impossible to fit a prototype EMALS onto the deck of a decommissioned Kitty Hawk, etc.

    12. They could always start a Zero-Length launch program for the F-35 and F-18 as a back up for the EMALS. The ability to launch without a runway makes sense for the Air Force too.

    13. @CNO. I wasn't very clear, my bad.

      Agree, even USN jets don't always fly off with a "full load" or "partial load" and as you say, there's plenty of pictures and video since Vietnam to Desert Storm to today that USN jets can take off from a carrier with something or nothing too! What I meant by " you never see any videos of Chinese or Russian jets taking off with anything near a full load", I really wonder what the REAL CAPABILITY is, there's very little photographic or videos of what a "combat load" is that can fly off a ski jump, as far as I have researched, there's a Indian Mig29 taking off with 4 dummy missiles and I recall a Russian ski jump jet with a 2 fuel's not a lot of evidence to me that a ski jump is all that compared to USN carrier catapults which are a known quantity. Sea Harriers during Falklands took off with 2 Sidewinders or 2 bombs and fuel tanks, we haven't even seen that from Russian or is it as capable as advertised or something else? I think with Boeing Super Hornet doing the testing, I think we might get a better answer to the trade off ski jump vs catapult and load a second thought, I really wonder if the problem is the LANDING, you might be able to take off with a war load/partial load but can you bring it back and land? Maybe the drawback on these Russian/Chinese carriers is a arresting gear limitation?!?

    14. Handy little paper about the use of ski jumps to launch different aircraft from battle damaged land based runways. It gives some data on gross take off weights so you can calculate what kind of weapons/fuel loads you might be able to reasonably achieve. The paper is from 1991 so the F-18 data is not Super Hornet data. Russian and Chinese naval jets are likely similar to the F-15 data.

      Aircraft operations from inclined ramps (ski-jumps) 

    15. The Russian and Chinese naval jets may be a little better than the F-15 if they have better landing gear. The F-15 is limited by the landing gear stress caused by the ski jump so the gross weight is lower than it could be with optimized landing gear.

    16. Even if you could launch Hornets off a ski-jump, what are you going to do about the Hawkeyes?

    17. Sure but is there clearance for the tail without hitting the deck?

    18. @michael woltman, that's an interesting idea. Is there a particular reason why JATO fell out of favor? Not only it may works for your ski-jump carrier but it could also work on the Marines AAS. I just feel like we are missing something. Maybe the arresting gear and the length of the runway is too short?

    19. If you put a ski-jump on an LHA/LHD, you would still have to land vertically because it has no angled landing deck or arresting gear.

    20. @Ipnam9114, I don't know why it fell out of favor but I have a few ideas. It is a consumable item so it has a logistics requirement that needs to be met. It is an additional cost item that in peacetime isn't needed. Additionally if you ignore history, you don't have to plan for future needs. I think the likely reason is that all of the military leadership that had dealt with bombed out runways in previous conflicts are long since retired.

      @CDR Chip. Thrust vectoring and thrust to weight ratios greater than 1 allow for a form of vertical landing with standard aircraft ( no lift fans ). Similar to how the SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage lands. Pull up into a stall and use vectored thrust to land tail first. Since current aircraft are not designed to land tail first a moveable or curved platform would be needed to "capture" the vertical aircraft and translate it to a horizontal position. Ideally you could pull into the stall and have some forward movement to keep up or close with the ship.
      The rear of the ship could consist of a near vertical landing strip that the aircraft could match forward velocity and height and when the land gear hit the landing strip the aircraft would increase thrust to raise the aircraft to the top of the landing strip which would have a gentle curvature that the aircraft could follow till it was in the horizontal position and on the main deck.

  15. Now for a very silly (left field) question. Cat you put cats on a ramp? It would give more resilience if the "cats go down". I assume as no one has done it, it is not practicable.

    1. The ramp is curved and catapult tracks are flat. Whether a catapult could be designed to follow the curve of a ramp, I have no idea.

    2. I'm pretty sure not. Given the alignment issues with EMALS, trying to make a curved portion work is probably beyond imaginable.

    3. If you have steam cats, they won't "all go down" unless someone screwed up REALLY bad.

      If you have EMALS, it's probably not possible to do for any reasonable price.

  16. Looks like France in designing a 75,000 tonne, 300 meter long nuclear powered aircraft carrier with 2 catapults.

    France planning new aircraft carrier 

    1. A 75k ton CVN to carry thirty (30) aircraft?

    2. To be fair, USN supercarriers carry about 70-80 aircraft but only 42-44 of them is combat aircraft. I am pretty sure the number the article is alluding to are only combat aircrafts (SCAF fighters in some other articles ). The French De Gaulle is carrying at least 40 aircraft with 2 Hawkeyes and 4-5 helicopters. By all means, this maybe the current specifications and subjectto further changes down the line. We will see.

    3. "USN supercarriers carry about 70-80 aircraft "

      No. Take a look at current air wings. Currently the total air wing, including helos, AEW, EW, etc. is around 65.

    4. USN air wings are super anemic nowadays, not a good example to follow!

      If lpnam9114 is right, we're looking at a total air wing of ~50 or less for the new French CVN, not exactly a lot of bite for that size.

      On the other hand, France isn't planning to fight China, so her necessities are different.

    5. "If lpnam9114 is right, we're looking at a total air wing of ~50 or less for the new French CVN"

      Here's a quote from a Forbes article"

      "Where Charles de Gaulle normally accommodates 24 Rafale fighters (more in an emergency), a pair of E-2 radar planes and four helicopters, the new flattop routinely could handle 32 Rafales and three E-2s plus helicopters and drones."

    6. The so called French design is only a thought. Its aim is 2038. We don't know at that time, how advance US and China aircraft carriers would be.

      China's under construction 003 aircraft carrier, like Ford, use EM launch system. In a couple of years, we will see how good the Chinese system in comparison with USS Ford's.

      Also, France has no money plus EU economy is falling fast.

  17. IMO the Navy should immediately stop building (and retiring) aircraft carriers.
    They should rework the plans for future carriers, beginning with the already under construction John F. Kennedy, into Kitty Hawk-derivative conventionally powered carriers.
    Spend any cost savings on carrier air-wings and fleet oilers.

    1. I still like the concept of 2-carrier CVBGs--one nuke and one conventional--that could combine 2 CVBGs to reprise Marc Mitscher's 4-carrier fast CTFs. And train that way. For the record, Mitscher's CTFs were usually 2 CVs and 2 CVLs/CVEs.

      I like Nimitzes for the CVNs and like Kitty Hawk as the model for the conventional CVs.

    2. "For the record, Mitscher's CTFs were usually 2 CVs and 2 CVLs/CVEs."

      Task force composition was based on mission requirements, of course, and availability rather than desirability. Even in WWII, until near the end, we didn't have enough CVs to form multiple 4-CV carrier groups so we had to mix and match with additional CVL/CVE. For example, from Wiki,

      "The force grew to nine CVs and eight CVLs in preparation for the landings on Leyte. Task Force 38 was composed of four task groups"

      Thus, to form 4 carrier groups with only 9 CVs and 8 CVLs, the logical mix was 2 of each. That was not the desirable mix, just the logical available mix.

      Towards the end of the war, as more CVs became available, the mix shifted towards CVs. Of course, by then it no longer mattered.

      One should also note that the CVs of the time carried 90+ combat aircraft (Hellcat and Avenger) (over 100 counting spares) and even the CVLs carried 35 or so combat aircraft. A group of 2 CV + 2 CVL thus carried 250 or so combat aircraft. Contrast this to a modern carrier that carries only 42-44 combat (Hornet) aircraft. Even a group of 4 modern CVN would carry only 168-176 combat aircraft compared to the WWII 250 or so.

      So, let's be clear about the WWII carrier groups. They were not constructed IDEALLY of 2 CV + 2 CVL. They were constructed AVAILABLY of 2 CV + 2 CVL.

      A modern version of 2 CVN and 2 CV(some sort of light) doesn't even come close to being combat capable of simultaneous strike and carrier defense. I've posted on this and run the numbers.

      With today's shrunken air wings, ONLY 4-CVN groups will suffice and even then, not really but it's the best we can do.

      I've proposed smaller carriers which are by any other standard, supercarriers, with the same size combat air wing as a Nimitz. Anything with fewer aircraft is simply combat-inadequate.

    3. ???

      Not quite sure how this is a response to my comment. I am pretty sure I said 2-carrier CVBGs composed of a CVN and Kitty Hawk, so the 4-carrier CTFs would be 2 CVNs and 2 Kitty Hawks.

      As far as numbers required for a strike, if you upped the air wing to 80, then 4 carriers would have 320. Even if the Kitty Hawks carried only 60, the 4 carriers would have 280, which gets above Mitscher's 250. And if they are operating together, you could replace the E-2s on one or two with other aircraft to increase the strike, air defense, and/or tanker capability.

      I have proposed focusing Marine air on assault support and CAS, and moving the Marine F/A-18s to CVWs. I think that's around 150-180 aircraft, which could make 9-10 squadrons. Most of them are probably older (Marines get a lot of hand-me-down equipment) but most of them probably haven't made as many carrier traps as their Navy brethren, so probably a little less wear and tear. Those Marine pilots may not have made as many carrier traps either, but they had to make some to get their wings, so they could be brought back up to speed.

      My comment about Mitscher was just to the point that you can make do with less if you have to. To that end, yes, I like the idea of taking the LHAs/LHDs (which are bloody useless as amphibs) and converting them to interim "Lightning Carriers" to be the second, smaller carrier of the 2-carrier CVBGs until the Kitty Hawks come online (which would probably be 15 years, minimum, even with an existing and proved design). No a Lightning Carrier is not the equivalent of a cats and traps carrier. But in company with a CVN some of its weaknesses could be offset by its big brother--AEW, tanking, fixed wing ASW (if the Navy saw fit to reprise/replace the S-3).

      As an interim measure, perhaps some of the LHAs/LHDs with enough remaining life to make it worthwhile could be converted to CSBA CVLs, basically similar to the old UK Ark Royal (which was about the same size), adding an angled deck and cats and traps, with a capacity of around 40 aircraft.

      2 CVNs with 80, a Kitty with 60, and a CVL with 40 would give you 260 which is still above Mitscher's 250.

      There is what you would like to have and what you can have. If you tried a 4-carrier CTF with the current count, you could do a max of 2 of them, most likely 1 given maintenance requirements. That's pretty useless. If you could use 10 CVNs and 10 Lightning Carriers, that would be 5, or 8 and 8 would give you 4. Yes, each such CTF has less capacity than a 4 CVN or a 2 CVN/2 Kitty CTF, but it beats what anybody has to put up against it. And as long as the strike mission remains secondary, which you seem to favor, that's almost certainly good enough to carry the day against anything they are going to see.

      Perfect is the number one enemy of good enough. I agree that 4 big carriers is the optimum CTF. But until we have the numbers to do that (and the only way we are going to get the numbers is to build cheaper CVNs and fill out the mix with conventional CVs) perhaps we should do like Mitscher and do the best we can with what we have.

    4. "2 CVNs with 80, a Kitty with 60, and a CVL with 40 would give you 260 which is still above Mitscher's 250. "

      Do not mistake total aircraft for combat aircraft. A CVN with 80 aircraft would only have around 50 or so combat aircraft. The remainder would be support aircraft - important but not combat. They would be helos, AEW, EW, tankers, COD, and the like.

      In contrast, WWII air wings ONLY contained combat aircraft.

      To use your example of 2 CVN (50/80)+ 2 CV (40/60), that would provide a total of around 180 combat aircraft and that assumes that all the combat aircraft are available as such and are not consumed as tankers.

    5. "Not quite sure how this is a response to my comment."

      Since you ask, … the clarity issue, again.

      You wrote the following two consecutive sentences:

      "For the record, Mitscher's CTFs were usually 2 CVs and 2 CVLs/CVEs.

      I like Nimitzes for the CVNs and like Kitty Hawk as the model for the conventional CVs."

      That would appear to suggest you were proposing two large carriers, either a Nimitz CVN or a Kitty Hawk CV paired with an unspecified pair of CVL/CVE, presumably the modified LHA you've previously proposed.

      I know you believe you're conveying your ideas with crystal clarity … but you're not. You might want to re-read your comments before you post them and try to make sure that they actually say what you mean.


    6. "I know you believe you're conveying your ideas with crystal clarity … but you're not. You might want to re-read your comments before you post them and try to make sure that they actually say what you mean."

      Here is the quote to which you are referring:

      "I still like the concept of 2-carrier CVBGs--one nuke and one conventional--that could combine 2 CVBGs to reprise Marc Mitscher's 4-carrier fast CTFs. And train that way. For the record, Mitscher's CTFs were usually 2 CVs and 2 CVLs/CVEs.
      I like Nimitzes for the CVNs and like Kitty Hawk as the model for the conventional CVs."

      At what point did I mention anything other than Nimitz CVNs and Kitty Hawk CVs? Anything beyond that has to be something that you inferred beyond what I said.

      In the subsequent post, I did go into more detail about how I would transition to getting there. Yes, in conjunction with my approach to revamp the phib force I would convert the LHDs/LHAs (that are basically useless in an amphib assault) into interim Lightning Carriers until we could get the Kitty Hawks into the fleet, which I would expect to take 15 years for the first one. And if any of the LHAs/LHDs had enough useful life remaining to justify it, I would convert them to CSBA cats-and-traps CVLs with about 40 aircraft (they're about the size of the 1960s-1970s Ark Royal or the French CDG which carry those numbers).

      So, as stated in the first post the IDEAL would be 2-carrier CVBGs with a Nimitz and a Kitty, forming 4-carrier CTFs with 2 Nimitzes and 2 Kittys, while for several years the AVAILABLE would be a 2 Nimitzes and 2 Lightning Carriers, transitioning the conventional side to CVLs and ultimate Kittys as they become available.

      I don't know how to make it more clear-cut than that.

    7. I think you may be confusing my post with some prior posts I had about the LHA/LHD/RAND CV-LX small carrier. To try to clear up the confusion, let me summarize my current thinking:

      - The LHAs/LHDs are pretty useless in an amphibious assault, and so I’m replacing them with a more conventional PhibRon/ARG; concurrently with this, I’m also converting the San Antonios to the ABM/BMD ships that HII proposed for that same hull.
      - What to do with the LHAs/LHDs? I don't think Congress or the public are going to take very well to parking a bunch of $3B assets.
      - Ideally we would have twelve 2-carrier CVBGs, converting to six 4-carrier CTFs, but there’s no way we can afford 24 Fords.
      - For about $1B more than the cost of a Ford ($14B), we should be able to build a Nimitz ($9B) and a Kitty Hawk ($6B). So we could get our 24 carriers by building 12 Nimitzes and 12 Kittys.
      - Given normal procurement lead times, we are probably looking at 15 years before the first Kitty could be operational; whatever the time frame, that’s a gap to be filled.
      - So convert the LHAs/LHDs to Lightning Carriers to fill it; their service lives probably expire about the time the Kitty Hawks would come online.
      - Consider converting any LHAs/LHDs with enough service life left (probably limited to Makin Island or later) to CSBA’s proposed CVLs—angled deck, cats and traps, about 40 aircraft (roughly same size as 1960s HMS Ark Royal or French CDG, and that’s what they carry/carried).
      - We will need more and larger CVWs to provide sufficient aircraft for the CVBGs/CTFs. Focusing the Marines back on their primary naval infantry mission should free up 150-180 Marine F/A-18s, and they and their pilots can be added to Navy CVWs.

      You’d start today with 11 CVNs and 10 LHAs/LHDs. You’d go to 12 and 12, then start replacing the Lightning Carriers with Kitty Hawk CVs, and converting some of them to CSBA CVLs. Ideally, you’d end up with 12 CVNs and 12 Kitty Hawk CVs. But in the interim you would be transitioning to that, and like Mitscher, you’d make do with what you had available.

      The converted LHAs/LHDs would not be the equivalent of a CVN or even a large CV. But, operated in conjunction with one or more CVNs, they could provide some increased capability as a transition asset.

    8. Once you got the numbers, you would start operating carriers in 2-carrier CVBGs and 4-carrier CTFs, to start identifying and developing optimum strategies and tactics. As the Lightning Carriers were replaced by Kittys and/or CVLs, those strategies and tactics would evolve.

    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    10. "That would appear to suggest you were proposing two large carriers, either a Nimitz CVN or a Kitty Hawk CV paired with an unspecified pair of CVL/CVE, presumably the modified LHA you've previously proposed."

      I think the operative words are "presumably" and "previously." I think you are conflating prior posts with what I wrote there, and pretty explicitly. Let me repeat.

      IDEAL: 12 CVBGS, each consisting of 1 CVN, Nimitz or similar, and 1 CV, Kitty Hawk or similar, capable of merging into 6 CTFS, each containing 2 CVNs and 2 Kittys.

      That won't be available for 30-40 years, so:

      AVAILABLE: 12 CVNs and 12 LHAs/LHDs converted to "Lightning Carriers" or possibly (those with enough service life remaining, maybe starting with Makin Island) CSBA CVLs, with sponsons, angled deck, cats and traps, and about 40 aircraft (based on similarly sized 1960s HMS Ark Royal and French CDG). Ideally, Kittys come online as service lives expire for these.

      As you suggest, if Mitscher had enough CVs, his CTFs would have been all CVs. But he didn't, so he went with what was available. I'm suggesting the same.

    11. I have a question CDR chip. Why do we need 24 Carries and the associated ships?

      Are we prepared to restore the tax structure to have such a navy. Are you full noticing and accounting the opportunity cost of such a navy.

    12. 12 CVBGs is my target, based on a two-front war were we send 4 to each front. That would leave 2 for surge/reserve and 2 in maintenance/workup. I believe each CVBG should have two carriers to be effective, with 2 CVBGs joining to form 4-carrier CTFs for maximum effectiveness. That would be two CTFs per front.

      Those are by target numbers. Looking at it from the coast side, no way we can afford 24 Fords at, say, $14B each. But for roughly the same money as a Ford you could build a Nimitz ($9B) and a Kitty Hawk ($6B). So 12 Fords(which as seemed for some time to be the Navy's target) for $168B or 12 Nimitzes plus 12 Kittys for $180B. Twelve 2-carrier CVBGs with proper escorts would be a force that could dominate the high seas,

      The real cost differential would come from finding aircraft and pilots for the additional carriers. I have mentioned a couple of ideas as partial short-term fixes, I have proposed getting the Marines out of the F/A-18 business and moving those squadrons into Navy CVWs. As another source of personnel, I have proposed moving 34,000 existing personnel from admin/overhead positions to combat (22,000) and combat support (12,000) positions. Also remember that my 12 CVN/12 CV force is one that probably won't be realized for 30-40 years. In the interim I am proposing to use existing/under construction CVNs, plus LHAs/LHDs as "Lightning Carriers," to get to my 12/12 combination. Therefore many of the personnel required are already in the fleet.

      Another place to save offsetting money is by applying the Zumwalt high/low approach to ship acquisition elsewhere. Virginias are currently running in the $3.3.5B range. CBO prices the Virginia replacement at $5+B. That seems excessive, as does their $7B price tag on SSGNs. I'd build a combination of Virginias and something smaller and cheaper like the Frenc Barracuda/Suffren class, and updated Ohios for the SSGNs, plus stretching out the numbers with some AIP SSKs for use in littoral/coastal zones. On the surface escort size, I'd 1) replace the Ticos as they wear out with a something on a true cruiser hull with more VLS cells and 8-inch guns, 2) keep the Burkes as excellent AAW destroyers, 3) build some cheaper GP escorts (win could be FREMMs if we hadn't bastardized them to get AEGIS onboard), and 4) build a bunch of cheaper frigates like ComNavOps's ASW escort to address our major shortfall in the ASW area.

      Based upon the best numbers available (CBO where available), I ave calculated that this approach cuts the cost per ship roughly in half, from $2.8B to $1.4B. Thus for slightly less than the $865B that CBO says the Navy would spend to hit the 355-ship level, higher/low would produce a fleet of 600, including a true littoral/coastal combat force and sufficient auxiliaries to keep the fleet supplied with beans, bullets and fuel. And the build time for this fleet could be extended out to 40 years to bring the cost in line with current expenditures, and produce a fleet of over 450 (counting legacy ships) by the 30-year mark.

      Obviously that takes larger headcount to operate, and I've identified a possible source for up to 34,000 above. Operations, maintenance, and subsistence costs would also increase. One thought I have there is to adopt an operating tempo that has 10% in maintenance/overhaul, 30% in reserve (reduced active manning but capable of surging), 30% in local ops/training, and 30% deployed/deployable, which could cut total headcount requirements by 15%.

      These ideas would have to be fleshed out with more extensive analysis than my back-of-the-envelope calculations, but I do think it is an approach worth considering.

    13. Remember that we had 15 CVs/CVNs until the mid-1970s--1 CVN (Enterprise), 8 Forrestal/Kitty Hawk class, 3 Midway class, and 3 Essex class. We rarely operated them in 2-carrier CVBGs, but we had more carriers than today, even after Vietnam. I am personally aware of at least one situation (unfortunately I'm not sure of the classification status, so can't share details) where we probably could not have done what we did without 15, and the consequences of failing to do so would have been severe.

      A lot of my thinking about total numbers was influenced by ComNavOps's proposed fleet (see tab). He proposes 15 CVNs and 12 CVs for a proper fleet. I don't quite see the need for the 3 extra CVNs if we are pairing up CVNs and CVs to for CVBGs and pairing if CVBGs to form CTFs.

      I guess my bottom line is that we should design a fleet by what it would take to win the worst war we can imagine, and then figure out how to make the cost work.

    14. "Are we prepared to restore the tax structure to have such a navy. Are you full noticing and accounting the opportunity cost of such a navy."

      The opportunity cost of such a Navy can really be quite small. I addressed the shipbuilding side and discussed steps I would propose regarding the headcount and operating, maintenance, and sustainment costs.At the end of the day, any net increase would be on the order of tens of billions of dollars, which would be little more than rounding error in a $4 trillion budget.

      Responding to the, "tax structure to have such a navy," requires venturing into politics a bit, for which I apologize in advance. It could actually involve lower and flatter tax rates, if we reduced or eliminated non-business exclusions and deductions, as both Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin proposed. If we added a 15% across-the-board consumption tax (like Europe) we could eliminate the need for an individual income tax altogether. And would be with providing universal private health care/insurance on the Bismarck model and a subsistence-level universal basic income.

      Sorry for the political tangent, but I felt it necessary to respond to Kath's questions.

    15. "Are we prepared to restore the tax structure to have such a navy."

      This is a recurring theme in comments. We've forgotten that we relatively recently had a 600 ship fleet, fully manned and yet, today, we balk at the thought of a few additional carriers or a fully manned ship.

      If you look at the historical tax rates from the Reagan era of the 1980's with a 600 ship fleet, the tax rates were no higher, or even less, than today. So, why would we even pose the question that we might not have the tax base to support some additional carriers?

      Yes, there are other factors such as the stupidity of building a Ford for twice the cost of a Nimitz and LESS COMBAT CAPABILITY!

      The point is that we've done all this before. There's no reason we can't do it again.

  18. If they cannot solve tech problems of this one, how do you trust them to design and build a new one free of problem?

    In private sector, if a project leader tells management that his current project fails thus give me more money to start a new one. What do you then think?


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