Being state of the art doesn’t come cheap, nor does it mean you’ll be ready on time.
Case in point: the U.S. Navy’s brand new nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, which is way behind schedule. It was also meant to cost $6 billion, but it’s now got a $12.9 billion price tag, which makes it the most expensive warship in history.
There are also reports that the new carrier will have to go through rigorous shock testing, which is expected to further delay its deployment.
“Like many other programs, the Ford-class carriers suffered from unrealistic cost estimates, and overly optimistic timelines,” wrote The Washington Post in August of 2015.
U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, detailed troubling cost-growth of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier program in a report published in October.
“We cannot afford another acquisition failure like the Ford-class aircraft carrier, especially in the current fiscal environment,” McCain said at an oversight hearing on the program, according to a press release.
“We simply cannot afford to pay $12.9 billion for a single ship. And if these costs are not controlled, we must be willing to pursue alternatives that can deliver similar capability to our war-fighters on time, and on budget,” McCain said.
See a video about the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford from The Verge that was made in 2013:
Officially, the Gerald R. Ford is currently due to be commissioned early next year.
The U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford is the first of the new Ford-class of super-carriers, which have been designed to replace the Nimitz-class of carriers. The first of the Nimitz-class was the U.S.S. Nimitz, which was commissioned in 1975. The last Nimitz-class carrier, the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, was commissioned in 2009.
The incoming Ford-class is the result of a decision first made in 1996 for the Navy to look for the next generation of aircraft carrier with improved capabilities and technologies.
So what does the American tax payer get for their money?
With a lifespan of 50 years, the Gerald R. Ford will be able to carry as many as 90 aircraft. Among the Gerald R Ford’s important improvements are the carrier’s ability to launch 160 sorties a day versus 140 per day. It offers a 30 percent reduction in maintenance requirements, while there is a 150 percent increase in electrical power generation, says Naval Technology.
The Gerald R. Ford is designed to house a crew of up to 4,660 sailors, which is less than the Nimitz-class.
Instead of using a cable and steam system, aircraft will be catapulted from the carrier using a new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS).
The next Ford-class carrier, the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, was slated to be commissioned in 2020, but it is now expected to be ready by 2024, reported The Washington Post. It was planned that then the next ships from the class are expected to enter service at intervals of five years. Ten Ford-class carriers are planned with construction continuing to 2058, reports Naval Technology.
The super-carrier’s namesake, Gerald R. Ford, was the 38th President of the United States from 1974 to 1977. He served on aircraft carriers during the Second World War.
See the super-carrier’s EMALS get tested in this U.S. Navy video below: