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Navy Conducting Alternative Carrier Study

USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN 78, Dry Dock Flooding. Huntington Ingalls Industries Photo

USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN 78, Dry Dock Flooding. Huntington Ingalls Industries Photo

The Navy is studying alternatives to how it competes and sources its aircraft carrier force, the Navy’s top acquisition official told Congress last week.

“We have been asked we are following suit to conduct a study to look at alternatives to Nimitz size and type of aircraft carriers and see if it makes sense,” Sean Stackley — Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA) — said before a Senate panel on Wednesday.
“Is there a sweet spot, something different other than today’s 100,000 ton carrier that would make sense to provide the power projection that we need that we get today from our aircraft carriers but at the same time put us in a more affordable position to provide that capability?”

Navy officials provided additional details on the study to USNI News late Friday.

“This study will reflect our continued commitment to reducing costs across all platforms by matching capabilities to projected threats and also seeks to identify acquisition strategies that promote competition in naval ship construction,” the official said in a statement.
“There is a historical precedent for these type of exploratory studies as we look for efficiencies and ways to improve our warfighting capabilities.”

Timelines for the study’s completion were not provided to USNI News.

Stackley’s Wednesday comments revealing the study came in response to questions from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the affordability of the Ford program.

McCain has been among the most vocal critics of cost overruns in the next generation carrier program.

USNI News understands the latest look in the carrier program began earlier this year in response to questions from Congress.

Currently there is one shipbuilder for U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers — Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport, Va.

According to the Navy, the Newport News yard is the only place in the U.S. capable of building a nuclear aircraft carrier.

The $12.9 billion first-of-class Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is slated to deliver to the service next year. The next ship — John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) — will deliver on June 22, 2022.

The following is March 20, 2015 statement to USNI News from a Navy official.

As indicated in testimony, the Navy has an ongoing study to explore the possible composition of our future large deck aviation ship force, including carriers. There is a historical precedent for these type of exploratory studies as we look for efficiencies and ways to improve our war fighting capabilities. This study will reflect our continued commitment to reducing costs across all platforms by matching capabilities to projected threats and Also seeks to identify acquisition strategies that promote competition in naval ship construction. While I can’t comment on an ongoing study, what I can tell you is that the results will be used to inform future shipbuilding budget submissions and efforts, beyond what is currently planned.