Troubled, wonky: The most expensive U.S. aircraft carrier ever built looks to shed these labels for good in 2020

Hugh Lessig, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) on

Published in Business News

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., raised eyebrows back in July during a hearing where he recited a list of Ford's problems and said, "you know, this ought to be criminal."

Ford facts

-- Big picture: Lots of new tech all at once

The USS Gerald R. Ford incorporated a number of new, untested systems, which increased the chances for glitches, delays and cost overruns.

The Defense Department's initial strategy was to phase in new technology over several ships, allowing the Navy to work out the bugs as time went on. The decision to go all-in on the first-in-class Ford came in the early 2000s.

When everything is working well, Ford Class carriers should launch more aircraft over a sustained period than Nimitz Class carriers -- estimates have varied from 25-30% higher -- while operating with fewer sailors.


-- Advanced Weapons Elevators

Weapons elevators move ordnance from the lower levels of the ship to the flight deck so aircraft can be armed for combat. The Ford's elevators use an electro-mechanical system that's different from elevators on Nimitz Class ships, which use a cables and pulleys.

The Ford has 11 elevators, but only four were certified as of late last year. Former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer famously promised President Trump that all elevators would be working by mid-2019 or the president could fire him, a story first reported by USNI News. Elevators aside, Spencer lost his job in November over his controversial handling of a Navy SEAL disciplinary case.

-- Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System


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