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Opinion: Get the Ford Carriers to the Fleet

Ship Chirstening Preparations

The U.S. Navy is struggling with an undersized fleet, and is being pushed to its breaking point. The facts are clear. The carrier force is below the mandate required by law. Our ships are going on deployments of ever increasing lengths, all longer than planned—as long as 10 months. Because of backlogs of ship maintenance, unplanned repairs are popping up with increasing frequency stretching out the ships’ repair periods. Training periods are now being cut by three-fourths of their planned time.

Vital areas like the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf are being gapped of the presence of an aircraft carrier for the first time in decades. The Navy’s expected ability to surge three more carrier battle groups to a conflict will not be achievable by 2020 unless congressional budget uncertainty and sequestration cuts to readiness are fixed now. And finally, the newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), will be kept from deploying for perhaps as long as four years for excessive testing.

The bottom line is this: the Navy needs more carriers and ships, and they are needed in the Fleet soonest if the Navy is to meet the National Command Authority’s operational requirements.

After World War II, the United States massively de-mobilized its military forces, reducing the Navy’s carrier force from 24 to eight. But that was before the Soviet Union detonated its atomic bomb, cemented its subversion of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain, and developed seemingly close communist ties with Mao’s China. To defend against that threat the National Security Council, led by Paul Nitze, who later became the Secretary of the Navy, issued its famous NSC-68 directive in April 1950, calling for a massive response from the free world against the communists’ aggressive actions. In response the Joint Chiefs set a 12-carrier force as its goal. Two months later, communist China invaded South Korea. The U.S. Navy responded by bringing back 10 mothballed Essex carriers that increased the force to 18 by the time of the cease-fire. Afterward, in 1953, the Joint Chiefs aimed for 15 carriers, a goal it maintained until 2000.

But 15 carriers were difficult to maintain. In 1992 budget pressures forced the U.S. Navy to decrease the force from 15 to 12 by 1998. In 2006 more financial constraints threatened to further reduce the number. Congress responded by putting a floor under the carrier force at 12, which was codified into law in U.S. Code Title 10, Section 6052. However, USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), which was expected to stay in service until 2018, retired in 2007. Faced with continuing budgetary woes and no alternative, Congress cut the number to 11 in 2007.

Recent events show the wisdom of 12.

Sailors watch as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departs Naval Station Norfolk for Newport News Shipbuilding in June 2013. US Navy Photo

Sailors watch as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departs Naval Station Norfolk for Newport News Shipbuilding in June 2013. US Navy Photo

First, in 2013 USS Enterprise (CVN-65) retired after 52 years of service. Although the Ford should have replaced her to maintain the force at 11, the Department of Defense’s transformational changes to the carrier program delayed her delivery until 2016, so Congress waived the requirement of 11 reducing the force to 10 until the Ford enters the fleet.

Second, in 2014 after back-to-back deployments with just a three-month interlude, several serious problems with the U.S. Navy’s second oldest carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), were found in the shipyard, requiring repairs that stretched her stay out for almost one more year. This forced the Navy to swap its entire schedule to the newer Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

Third, at his recent confirmation hearing to become Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson confirmed that the Navy would not have a carrier patrolling the Persian Gulf for several months later this year, and that the Navy can only surge one carrier strike group to a crisis now. To Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) point that unless congressional budget uncertainty and sequestrations cuts to readiness are corrected now, the Navy wouldn’t be able to restore the surge capability back to the expected three strike groups by 2020, Admiral Richardson reluctantly agreed.
Fourth, less than a month later, Vice Admiral Michael Shoemaker, the commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces, confirmed the daisy-chain effect of one carrier’s problems on an undersized force by announcing that the upcoming training periods for the Truman, which had maintenance problems of its own—and probably the George H. W. Bush (CVN-77)— will be shortened considerably to just 40 days from the expected 154-day training cycle to meet their scheduled deployments.

We are failing with a force of 10. 11 are law, but having 12 would be much better.
Why Twelve?
Since World War II, the U.S. Navy has routinely deployed three carriers forward at the same time to provide a powerful presence to areas of potential conflict. If conflicts arise, the U.S. Navy can surge three more carriers from a group that has recently returned from deployment or from the three preparing for deployment, which makes it possible to muster as many as six. In recent times with a force of 12, we mustered four for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, and six for Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Therefore, to deploy three at the same time all the time and surge as many as three more forward to muster up to six for a conflict—while letting the three deployable carriers remain behind to continue training or do repairs—we need at least nine deployable carriers. A tenth carrier can then be up “on the blocks” for a year in a dry-docking repair period, and the 11th can be out of service in the multi-year midlife refueling. A 12th carrier provides back up when something goes wrong.

A Problematic Test Schedule

To get the carrier force’s numbers back up, the Ford’s exceptionally long test plan can and should be questioned by Congress to get her into the Fleet and deployed as soon as possible. A simplified version of the proposed test plan to the Defense Department’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation shows 29 underway periods or independent steaming events (ISEs) from 2016 through 2018 with time reserved through 2019 to possibly stretch the plan to 2020. That would be four years between commissioning and first deployment.
Enterprise, the first nuclear carrier, steamed to the Mediterranean and quickly returned to participate in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, all within 12 months of commissioning. USS Nimitz (CVN-68), the first of its class, deployed within 11 months of commissioning, and the second of the class, Dwight D. Eisenhower, deployed within 14 months of commissioning. For all ten Nimitz-class carriers, the average was 21.5 months.

Courtesy of the authors

Courtesy of the authors

Despite having 20 ISEs with 19 carrier airwing carrier qualification periods in 2016 and 2017—more than any previous carrier— the Gerald R. Ford still won’t be ready for deployment in 2018, some 24 months after commissioning. Her proposed test schedule continues with nine more ISEs (numbers 21 through 29) until the end of 2018, with more time reserved well into late 2019, where the only focus appears to be more testing of new arresting gear and catapults. Why?

On March 3, 2011, the DOD issued Directive Type Memorandum 11-003, which mandated high reliability standards for military systems. According to Government Accountability Office report GAO-13-396, “Ford-class Carriers: Lead Ship Testing and Reliability Shortfalls Will Limit Initial Fleet Capabilities,” the minimum number of cycles needed to make the new advanced arresting gear contained on the ship “minimally reliable” is 335,000 by 2027. There is a similar minimum reliability goal of 315,000 cycles for the new electromagnetic catapult on board the Ford-class.

To put that number in perspective, consider this: The 400,000th arrested landing on board the Enterprise did not occur until May of 2011—nearly 50 years after her commissioning. Achieving the “minimally reliable” number of cycles cannot be done through a test program alone before entering service.

So what is the purpose of the Ford’s second cycle of operational tests? Are the nine ISEs scheduled for 2018 with nine airwing carrier qualification events meant to drive up the number of cycles on the new arresting gear and catapults by 10,000 cycles? Even that won’t get it very far to 300,000-plus cycles.

History of Innovation

USS AMERICA (CV-66) underway as16 aircraft from Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) fly overhead in 1983. US Navy Photo

USS AMERICA (CV-66) underway as16 aircraft from Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) fly overhead in 1983. US Navy Photo

With the exception of the new nuclear plant on the Nimitz, all the other critical carrier technologies or innovations were first developed and proven decades earlier on five classes: 13 Essexclass carriers, three Midways, four Forrestals, four Kitty Hawks, and the first nuclear-powered carrier, the Enterprise.

For example, in the U.S. Navy, the British innovation of the angled deck was first put on the Essex-class carrier Antietam (CV-36) in 1952 and then later improved with the addition of cable-suspended deck-edge elevators on the Forrestal class in 1954. The steam catapult was first put on the Essexclass carrier Hancock (CV-19) in 1954. The new optical-landing system that sends a light up the glide path to safely guide fast-approaching jets was first put on the Saratoga (CV-60), the second Forrestal-class carrier, in 1957.

But not all these technologies panned out. For example, the Enterprise’s SCANFAR system, the guided-missile program’s first attempt to put a phased-array radar on warships in the 1960s that gave the Big E’s island her unique boxy shape, was a failure and had to be replaced. It took another 22 years to successfully put the phased array radar to sea on the missile cruiser Ticonderoga (CG-41) in 1983 by the now-revered Aegis program.

This is very similar to the Ford’s phased array radar, the dual-band radar, whose development from the Navy’s DD-1000 truncated destroyer program produced only one set—the Ford’s. It will be replaced with the new Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) on the new John F. Kennedy.

However, with 30 years and on 25 ships, it is obvious that those technologies successfully developed for carriers went through hundreds of thousands of cycles that made them reliable well before the Nimitz class came along.

For the DOD to then hoist those “300,000-plus cycles” as test requirements on the Ford’s advanced arresting gear and electromagnetic launching system in 2011 in the middle of their developments is unreasonable. There was no such opportunity for the Ford program to have its technologies’ reliability’s proven on older carriers. Moreover, the DOD changed the Navy’s chosen evolutionary three-ship approach to a “transformational” single-ship approach in which 12 new technologies are all developing within 20 years on only two ships.

How to Save Time

An artist's conception of an installed Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on a U.S. carrier. General Atomics Image

An artist’s conception of an installed Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on a U.S. carrier. General Atomics Image

So how can the Navy deal with the systems (advanced arresting gear and the electromagnetic launching system) that will not have been cycled hundreds of thousand times? As safely as possible, that’s how. Already cycled hundreds—if not thousands—of times at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst, New Jersey, they will be further tested on the ship to ensure proper installation. Then the Ford would go to sea for the next two years at least 20 times and test them vigorously until they are certified safe to use.

Once certified, they would be managed by the Navy’s Naval Aviation Safety Management Program (SMS), which would strictly specifies their certified configuration and safe envelopes of operations. As the systems are in service, SMS monitor’s their safe usage, and “ground” them when an unsafe operation was known or suspected by the fleet operators. SMS has provided the Navy with the safe use of hundreds of different types of aircraft and aviation systems as reasonably as can be expected since WWII, and it has been routinely and continuously improved. The Ford’s 20 at-sea test periods and two years of time should be enough to safely deploy them with these safe but “immature” systems.

However, the DOD just ordered the Navy to conduct shock trials on Ford that will further delay its first deployment. Shock trials are expected on new ships, but have yet to be done on the first ship of the class. The first nuclear-powered ship shock tested was the Arkansas (CGN-41), the fourth cruiser of the Virginia class, in 1982; the first carrier was the John F. Kennedy (CV-67), the fourth of the Kitty Hawk class, in 1984; the first nuclear-powered carrier was Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), the fourth of the Nimitz class, in 1986; the first nuclear-powered submarine was Jacksonville (SSN-699), the twelfth fast-attack submarine of the 688 class, in 1988; and the first Aegis guided-missile destroyer, USS John P. Jones (DDG-53), the third of the Arleigh Burke class, in 1994.

Ignoring those facts and the fact that the carrier force is below minimum and overstressed, the DOD still ordered the shock test on Ford. The Navy’s response is that it may further delay the Ford’s first deployment by two more years. However, if further testing is required, it shows that we are paying for the investment now, and it must not be wasted. Moreover, the extended stay of Eisenhower in the shipyard saved its fuel for another year and a later retirement in 2028. That provides an opportunity to build two more carriers within the next 10 years to restore the force back to 12.

  • MC

    Carriers are increasingly becoming relevant only to conflict with unsophisticated opponents. In a conflict with any near peer (Russia or China), they would have to stay so far away their planes couldn’t reach anything worth bombing. The carrier came of age in WWII but its age is passing. It’s the cheap, effective missile age now, folks. Even the Navy shows its understanding of that with “Distributed Lethality.” Better to spend our billions on subs, bombers, ISR, and yep, new missiles, and not sweat it if we don’t have “enough” carriers at sea.

    In the article the author gives the key to why he is incorrect on this: all but one of the key systems going into the Nimitz had already been proven before building the Nimitz. But the Ford has so many new technologies that are unproven, they NEED to test this. The Pentagon actually made the right call with this ship, no doubt against fierce opposition from those who want to make sure the dollars keep coming to this program.

    Also note that a 2-year delay is only IF TOO MANY THINGS BREAK. If the ship survives intact, the delay is much less. So, if they did this right and everything is survivable, this becomes a non-problem. Anyone willing to make that bet?

    • Marcd30319

      Do you even read the article? The author provided ample historical and technical context for the current carrier situation.

      During the Cold War, carriers provided the only means for the Navy to delivery nuclear strikes from the sea until Polaris became operational. Even after that, carriers remained a part of the US unified nuclear air campaign.

      Also, with the 1980s maritime strategy, carriers took the fight to the Soviet coastal bastions to destroy their missile subs there and took pressure off NATO’s central front by strike the USSR’s flanks. This caused a reverse in correlation of forces for the USSR and helped to win the Cold War.

      Every few years, the nitwits come out of the woodwork and say that we can do defense on the cheap. And every time, something happens and the same nitwits ask/plead: “Where are the carriers?”

      • aloxxley

        That was then. Now when something happens “they” ask–where are the Tomahawk shooters? That was the case in Libya a few years ago. When an attack on Syria was being considered a few years ago it was the Tomahawk that was going to be the weapon of choice–not an aircraft carrier

        • Marcd30319

          Tomahawks had to be used because we had no carriers in the Med since 2009.

          Coincidence? Nope, just the current administration down-sizing our footprint in the Med.

          Of course, not having sufficient forces is a great excuse at doing nothing. Benghazi, anyone?

          Clever how you shaped your argument to try win your point. No, not really. It is still pretty lame.

          And don’t forget Operation Inherent Resolve. Having a carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf was handy.

        • Marcd30319

          “When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident that the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: ‘Where’s the nearest carrier?'”

          President Bill Clinton
          March 12, 1993 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt

      • Curtis Conway

        You speak as though we are suggesting doing away with CSGs. That is not the case. The fact of the matter is MOST of the planet can have a meaningful presence without a full CSG. That is where we used to send the FFG-7s. THAT is where the light carriers go. The CVLBG can also bolster flight surge operations by providing more airframes in the air to support CSG operations. ASW is going to occupy more time and space in the future, and it will not only be shore based assets doing that job. Our current gap recurring in the future (and it will particularly if surge is required) has a solution in the form of a CVLBG.

        • Marcd30319

          You misread me, CC. I do think believe in carrier strike groups. Ditto amphibious ready groups. Ditto surface action groups in low intensity region not requiring air cover.

          ASW is important, as is sea control, and naval presence is the key. Home-porting is a strong option.

          I can see a support carrier (CVS) type as long as the big-deck attack versions (CVA) is kept. Nothing beats a Nimitz or Ford.

    • Curtis Conway

      I guess aircraft don’t do anything, and are just a liability and risk factor.

      A huge factor of “Distributed Lethality” mostly via net-centric warfare, is NIFC-CA capable aviation platforms. Of course NIFC-CA aircraft on something other than a CVN that is smaller, lighter, and as well protected might be an option?

  • Dan Matt

    It should not be up to just the US to have to patrol certain areas of the world. Countries should be given spheres of influence as was the case pre-WWII. With the introduction of the QE class carriers of the Royal navy in 2016 and 2018, two new battle groups (whether it be wholly RN or a NATO task group) should be formed around these ships. Taking care of possibly the Med and a standby group for the Gulf. The US can not be wholly responsible for the worlds oceans. Speaking as a Brit, we know it cant be maintained forever, we tried it in the 1800/1900’s and it just becomes prohibitively expensive thus unfeasible. Its about time NATO countries took defense seriously and participated to defend their own world

    • Curtis Conway

      Thank you Dan Matt. The majority of the planet has just ignored the fact that the ‘US Bobby’ was on the job, and ignored the fact that we kept them safe . . . until now. Now the planet is on fire, and many are wondering why. The current US Foreign Policy is the answer via lack of Proactive Presence? ‘When the Cat’s away the Mice will play’ . . and are they playing.

      • Marcd30319

        Quite true, CC. The cop has to walk the beat. No broken windows either.

        • Curtis Conway

          This gives one an insight into the ‘intent’ behind removing the ‘stabilizing force’ of reason in the first place, doesn’t it?

          • Marcd30319

            When the so-called “national command authority” doesn’t believe in the job that the cop does, that the cop acted stupidly, then the streets are taken over by the thugs and gangs and no one is safe. Ultimately, it makes even nationa-building at home impossible.

          • Curtis Conway

            Just like Baltimore?!

          • Marcd30319

            Or New York City, CC, or Chicago. Or Cambridge, Mass.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            Or ever Ferguson, RIGHT…

      • John B. Morgen

        This is another reason why we should be building smaller aircraft carriers, so they could be deploy therm in areas where CVB(N) are not available. Because smaller CVs take less time to build than just one Ford class carrier, bigger is NOT always the prudent path to take when you want to project sea power.

        • PolicyWonk

          Sir,

          You are correct – a fleet of light (well… smaller) carriers along the size of the USS America class would serve this nation by patrolling less volatile parts of the world, thereby freeing up the CVN’s for more problematic areas.

          Besides, in contrast to the USS Ford, the USS America costs about 1/3 the price. While that isn’t the entire equation, it still says a good deal. Furthermore, the lethality of munitions these days provides a far greater punch even on a smaller platform than a Nimitz-class carrier of a mere 20 years ago. Hence – a small carrier (for the US) is still going to command a lot of respect.

          • Fred Stanley

            When you get down to it there is not a lot of difference between the size and power a Ford and a Kitty Hawk class carrier can carry. For what it costs to build one Ford you could build three or four Kitty Hawks and they would be, hands down, the most powerful carriers in the world.

          • John B. Morgen

            The Navy and the Government should read about the importance that CVs, CVLs and CVEs had played out in naval history during World War II. I think the “Powers that Be” will then and should rethink about building more smaller CVs than continue to build very large CVB(N)s. History does repeats itself.

          • Mark Sheehan

            20 years ago are you kidding we are stiil flying and using same technology we had in mid to late 70s the power is dam near the same better radar sure little bit upgraded missiles,gps, other than that same birds ,ship

    • John B. Morgen

      After 1945 the United States accepted the position as being world policeman from Great Britain, and almost every White House administration has preach about the United States for being the corner-stone for providing military aid to nation-states in order to fight the Soviet Union/Red China intrusions. This has been going on for many decades, and the world has been so conditioned they automatically believe that the United States will always have a carrier battle group off their shores. Yes, we need the other nation-states to carry their own weight, but first we need to de-program our world. For example, both Germany and Japan have warship restrictions that were placed upon them by the Allies after World War II, and those restrictions need to be lifted.
      We need to reform a new SEATO for the Pacific region because we need Japan, South Korea and Australia to start building CVs; furthermore, the Philippines Navy needs to be reform its navy by building newer warships….A new SEATO could provide support for the Philippine Navy.

      • Secundius

        @ John B. Morgan.

        Japan, is “Already Seeing the Light”, so to speak. But, Germany is so Comfortable with the Restrictions in Place, that even if you did Lift Them “Their Not Going To Want Too Change Their Way’s”. No matter how much you PROD THEM…

        • John B. Morgen

          The Germans might change their ways, but only if the Baltic becomes a Russian pond with large warships.

          • Secundius

            @ John B. Morgen.

            The Problem with Baltic Sea Area, is that Sea Controlled by the Russians. Is Highly Radioactive, That’s why the Setting Up Shop near Vladivostok, Russia…

          • John B. Morgen

            Because the Russians have been dumping nuclear waste in the Baltic Sea?

          • Secundius

            @ John B. Morgen.

            Not Exactly, some of there Older Nuclear-Power Ship and Submarines had Cracked Reactor Casings. So the Soviet Navy and later Russian Navy, Scuttled there Ship’s in their Mooring Slips in the Ice Cold Water to let Nature Do what the Russian’s Didn’t Do. The Soviet’s/Russian’s, have a Very Poor Track Record in Nuclear Repair Maintenance. They simply “Beethoven” Their Ship’s/Submarine’s, and then Replace Them. Other Nuclear-Navy’s put Safety First in the Nuclear Building Program, While the Soviet’s/Russian’s DIDN’T. It was Money they simply weren’t willing to spend, safety last. Remember “Chernobyl”…

          • John B. Morgen

            I have seen many photographs of scuttled Soviet warships at their moorings in their former Baltic bases, which many of them were submarines: A total mess of things. I agree that the Soviet/Russian Navy has a very poor track record when it comes down to safety.

    • NavySubNuke

      I’m fairly certain the Brits are going to immediately mothball one of their carriers after it is completed – I think they only plan on having one operational and even that one will only be operational for part of the year when it isn’t in maintenance. Though the plan may have changed in the last few years.

  • reyoho

    ” the Persian Gulf are being gapped of the presence of an aircraft carrier for the first time in decades.”
    Now who is Fighting ISIS ?!?
    anyone now the answer ?

    • Michael Rich

      Us…? You do realize we have land based air craft from Kuwait & Turkey, right?

  • John B. Morgen

    The Navy should think about having a Pacific coast shipyard for building aircraft carriers, besides only having one on the East coast.

    • Fred Gould

      Competition would help.

      • John B. Morgen

        And also maintaining a vital but skilled ship building work force on both sea coasts…

    • Curtis Conway

      Long Beach, CA used to.

      • John B. Morgen

        The Navy/government made a mistake of closing it because shipyard had good dry-docks that were big enough for docking CVBs.

        • Curtis Conway

          Yes they were. We knew it was a mistake when they did it. Tried to go private. That is what is left there today.

          • John B. Morgen

            I wonder if the government can get the old shipyard back?

      • Secundius

        @ Curtis Conway.

        The only West Coast Shipyard’s capable of building an Modern Aircraft Carrier. Are located in Puget Sound, Washington State…

        • NavySubNuke

          And even that is a stretch. Building a ship and maintaining/overhauling a ship are entirely different skill sets.

          • John B. Morgen

            It is not impossible to have a skilled shipyard builders with many backgrounds, but it is prudent to have such a shipyard on the West coast.

          • Secundius

            @ John. B. Morgen.

            Unlike the (1989) movie “Field of Dream’s” quote “If You Build It, They Will Come”. Your have to “Induce” an Incentive To Get Too Come, probable a 15% to 25% “Pay Hike”. Ship Worker’s are No Different than a Large Corporation, You Have To “Schmuse” Them Too Come…

          • John B. Morgen

            What’s the unemployment rate for shipyard builders? If it is high like 12% above the national rate. then that should be incentive to get them to work.

    • NavySubNuke

      Doesn’t have to be on the other coast – just a different yard would be fine. The real issue is the only other yard that does any nuclear work is the EB yard up in Connecticut where we also build submarines. I doubt they have the capacity to do aircraft carriers as well. I’m not sure what it would cost to add nuclear construction capability/certification to another shipyard – but I imagine it is in the billions to man, train, equip, and certify those builders in a shipyard without the capability to start with.

      • John B. Morgen

        I’m afraid the government closed too many shipyards, and I also think shipyards should or must be spread out as much as possible. So naval production from either sea coast could continue if one or yards are damaged by an enemy attack. And another thing, we should not be relying too much on nuclear power all of the time; especially, for submarines. We should start trying to adopt the German 9 Siemens/HDW PEN fuel cell system..

  • Mr. Speaker

    Despite the U.S. Navy’s size, technical superiority and global presence groups of bad guys still pop up and wreak havoc, motivated dictators still expand their country’s influence/geography and wanna-be pirates still harass shipping lanes. This is not new and the biggest baddest stick still doesn’t scare anyone.
    Meanwhile the defense industry fuels Congressional handwringing and incites the mantra, “We need more planes, more tanks, more ships!”
    To paraphrase some sentiments from 1949……….the U.S. has the capability to drop a multi-ton conventional warhead anywhere in the world with a respectable CEP. That is not to say there shouldn’t be a Navy but maybe the composition and use should be re-evaluated.

  • vincedc

    Every government agency is going through the same budget cuts as the Navy. You can whine all you want, but the fact is that the money is not there and everyone has to adjust to the new realities. I’m sure the FBI, FAA, NIH and NOAA can all find critical if not mandatory elements that cannot be funded. Maybe it is time for the military to reduce its circle of influence. Admirals want more ships….that is nothing new. New doctrine should be made on what we can afford, rather than stretch our resources too thin to maintain requirements that we cannot meet in the long run.

    • Marcd30319

      It’s national security which is the first priority of any government. It is also a matter of geography, too. Finding equivalency in setting priority is a very ill-considered approach on making decisions.

    • Ctrot

      Every government agency is NOT suffering budget cuts. The welfare state grows every day, it already consumes twice as much in funds as defense.

      The federal government is taking in record amounts of money, we just foolishly choose to spend it on create wards of the state rather than defending the state.

    • tpharwell

      Not to disagree, but the problem is that as a criteria for planning acquisitions, “what we can afford” is just too elastic a concept. Everyone has a different notion of it. I, for instance, believe that at current interest rates, we should issue “war bonds” to finance naval construction; i.e., not shy away from deficit spending for a good cause. Others think we should shrink the budget, and cut social programs to fund defense. There is no end to this debate.

      On top of this is the problem of misallocations and costly failures, which are now so numerous that they remind me of what my stepfather was told when he landed at Normandy on D-Day plus 6. He asked: “Did many guys get killed ? The MP said, “son, if any more had gotten killed, none would have made it”. That is about the status of the military’s 10 most prominent acquisitions programs of the last twenty years. Consequently, there is no way to tell what we can afford, and no concept of what we truly need, which should dictate what we spend. Those matters get lost in the chaos and confusion of an hyper-sophisticated “Nothing But the Best in Advanced Technology” procurement program that has run amuck, as a result of the lack of expertise and experience among the Navy’s top program managers in the very things they are responsible for, and their consequent dependence upon their contractual counter-parties for results.

  • Curtis Conway

    “Training periods are now being cut by three-fourths of their planned time.”

    This will eventually result in the loss of equipment and more importantly, personnel. COMPTUEX and exercises like it are conducted for a reason. That reason is being violated for expediencies sake and the force will suffer for it. Leadership?!

    When dealing with very complex new technology it is very difficult to determine its real ‘safe usage’ capability. Actual experience with the equipment many times reveals things never conceived in inception. Some things properly conceived must be tested and proven. When safety of human life is concerned, then the conservative route is the best way. On the USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) we had many ‘first’ events. However, most of them existed somewhere else in the fleet, except for perhaps our SPY-1A Radar. the first time for them to all be in one place at one time was on Tico. Well established track records existed on most of the equipment, which for the most part had backups. Redundancy was the name of the game, and we had it is spades. Almost everything had a Primary and Secondary with backup for each in the digital systems and the old analog in some cases were also present. On our first deployment we did find one thing that did not have a backup. It was fixed and the systems now have redundancy there. In all of our cases on Tico, there was never a potential to lose human life if the facility failed to function, except perhaps during an attack on the ship. This is not true on the USS Ford (CVN-78).

    Most of the systems on the USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) were automated digital systems, with there analog systems right along side in many cases, particularly if safety of life and safety of flight were concerned. Steam Catapults and conventional arresting gear are not, and will not, be on the USS ford (CVN-78). Extra precautions are required for safety of life in that very dangerous safety of flight regime. It is dangerous enough flying naval aircraft without stoking the equation with greater Risk.

    Concerning Testing & Evaluation . . . there is a specific process and it must be followed. Some anomalies have already occurred in this chain of events that are not in accordance with the plan, thus introducing risk into an equation that the very process was supposed to eliminate, and that has to do with the equipment sets under test in EMALS. Actual operational units are required and prototypes have been used, and everyone just wrote it up and said it would be OK. NOPE! Assumptions and artificiality are the enemy. Do NOT let them creep into the equation. Testing and Evaluation is a science, not an art form, and Risk Factors and Operational Mean Time Between Failure is real, and takes even greater importance with respect to Safety of Life, when Safety of Flight is concerned. Violate the process at your own risk, and in this case place others lives in danger too. The author is right about putting so many high risk eggs in one basket particularly when Safety of Flight is concerned. I guess this is indicative of the leadership and program management we have in the US Navy today. Not a conservative bunch anymore in comparison to our HiStorical precedent in the chain of Command.

    Of course VSTOL/STOVL platforms do not have these problems. Light Carriers anyone?

    • tpharwell

      Here. See my post above. As a temporary solution I have repeatedly suggested that USS America, and a few other LHAs be repurposed for surface fleet defense, and ASW.

      I have also proposed building a new line of small carrier escorts. They would host the air assets needed for surface squadron defense. They might also serve as an arsenal ship, tanker and combat center. Add missile tubes to that, and perhaps you would have something like the Admiral Kuznetsov: an “aircraft carrying guided missile cruiser”. Or, “Sea Control Carrier”

      • Curtis Conway

        Amen.

      • PolicyWonk

        Interesting idea. The Russians sometimes come up with a good idea, and in this case maybe the Japanese, with their missile firing “helicopter destroyers”, might be on to something.

        A carrier, with a passel o’ VLS missiles and a respectable air wing (F-35B’s, for example) could present some interesting possibilities.

      • Secundius

        @ tpharwell.

        We’ve had Plenty of Designs ranging from Through-Deck Destroyers (Spruance-variants) to Battle-Carriers (Iowa-variants). NONE of them ever got past the “Fantasy” stage of Development…

        • tpharwell

          Concerning the “Sea Control Ship” proposed by the Navy under Admiral Zumwalt, Wikipedia states the following:

          “The resultant design had a full load displacement of 13,736 long tons (13,956 t) and an overall length of 610 feet (190 m). It was to be powered by two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines generating 45,000 shaft horsepower (34,000 kW) and driving a single shaft, which would propel the ship to a speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph). Weaponry was to be limited, consisting of two Phalanx Close-in weapon systems to defend against anti-ship missiles.[3]”

          Designs cost money. Congress does not consider appropriations for fantasies. By the time a new naval shipbuilding program is ripe for funding, the designs that are required for it represent a considerable stage of development. At least, I think, that is how it was back then. Today, with the “Run it up the flag pole, and see if anyone salutes” approach, I am not so sure.

          I think we are talking about the same thing: a failed proposal for funding. I am obviously aware of it, and it troubles me not.

        • tpharwell

          Concerning the “Sea Control Ship” for which the Navy sought funding under Admiral Zumwalt, Wikipedia has this to say:

          “The resultant design had a full load displacement of 13,736 long tons (13,956 t) and an overall length of 610 feet (190 m). It was to be powered by two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines generating 45,000 shaft horsepower (34,000 kW) and driving a single shaft, which would propel the ship to a speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph). Weaponry was to be limited, consisting of two Phalanx Close-in weapon systems to defend against anti-ship missiles.”

          Congress does not consider funding requests for fantasies. Designs cost money. The designs required for a new ship proposal for which funding is sought by the Navy represent a fairly substantial stage of development. At least, they did back then. Today, with the “Run it up the Flagpole, and see in Anyone Salutes” approach taken, maybe not so much.

          I think we are talking about the same thing: a failed funding proposal. Clearly, I am well aware of it. It does not trouble me in the least. I find the reasons for which it was advanced in the first place more compelling today than then.

  • Marcd30319

    I don’t care what the so-called technical reasons for these DOD mandate. This is about wanting to cut carriers.

    There were rumors that the Abraham Lincoln was going to be decommissioned during its RCOH. The ongoing controversy about the George Washington and its RCOH is another example. Now this delay on deploying the Gerald Ford for further “testing.”

    Ignore the press releases. This isn’t what the Navy want to do. This is coming the White House via the OSD.

  • tpharwell

    A quick answer to this problem, before I continue reading this very important article.

    The United States Navy has more or less ten carriers by another name that are dedicated to the missions of humanitarian assistance, and putting Marines ashore by air and by sea. Given the regular carrier shortage, the current strategic environment, and recent statements of doctrine, this represents an imbalance in the Navy’s force structure. The need for carriers is driven by the need for airborne naval assets. As everyone concerned with such matters knows, US carrier aviation is moving towards VSTOL manned fighters, smaller UAVs for similar purposes and ISR, the V-22 COD, and a new generation of helicopters. World affairs and strategic considerations are moving the prioritization of naval missions away from opposed maritime landings, and towards sea control.

    Given all of these considerations, it only makes sense to repurpose the more advanced of the LHAs to fleet defense, and particularly, Anti-submarine Warfare.

    There is at this time, no US carrier on station in the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean is NATO’s backyard, and currently, Russia is treating it like its own. This is an inexcusable misallocation of assets. The answer is a no-brainer. Re-equip the America, and three other LHAs for sea control duty. Now. Without further deliberation. Without years of meetings and reams of paper wasted on studies.

    • Curtis Conway

      This issue (amphibious portion) was already studied and the plan laid out. The two other major elements of the ARG were increased in well deck capacity, and the well deck was lost on the LHA-6 Class. Only going to build two?! Someone changed the plan and the mission. The statement that the USN is no longer looking so strongly about ‘opposed maritime landings’ is missing in the arguments we get from the Navy Department, and/or spoken of in the press. No re-tasking of LHA-8 and beyond construction, without well deck, is seen . . . anywhere?! The forces we need in the future to battle GWOT, brush-fire wars, and deal with Humanitarian Missions is OBVIOUSLY a more aviation-centric platform, and the capabilities of the F-35B and V-22 Osprey are the compelling technologies upon we should leverage this argument. The lack of wisdom in replacing the welldeck back into the LHA-6 was staring us in the face, even as the decision was made, and the change was put out. Anyone with eyes to see it, was just looking on with their mouths open. Something has to give, and the American Tax Payers are getting tired of these little games the Hierarchy (read Military Industrial Complex) has been playing with our defense. LCS is an expensive disaster in the face of the lack of missile defense platforms. Then 30 mm guns and SeaRAM is placed upon upon LCS, and it is given a NEW NAME (Fast Frigate/Fighting Frigate) . . . war of words?! Our adversaries are going to shoot REAL ballistic missiles at our LCSs and they WILL NOT be able to defend themselves. When considering the ingress of a supersonic ASCM on my location a 25lb blast fragmentation warhead hitting a target so close aboard that re-attack is not possible, IS NOT ENCOURAGING! I would not enlist under these conditions, and I question the >>>>>>>>>>> of any naval officer who pretends this is an acceptable equation for Combat At Sea!

      • tpharwell

        ‘First, there is a well-deck; then there is no well-deck. Then there is.’ Read and understood, I think.

        Of course, there is a larger subject implicated by this discussion, and it is the future of the Marine Corp. For this reason, I think the Navy Department bears the larger share of responsibility for the shenanigans you describe. Individually, it is not that its members do not agree with your assessment. It is just that institutionally, they will not say so, for fear of undermining the Corp. “Yes, we are taking the well deck out of our most recent models of the (amphibious) Landing ship, Helicopter Assault. But we do not intend to abandon the feature. It will work its way back in eventually.” Such an official position can only be explained as an effort to conceal weakness in a line of reasoning.

        As for the LCS, you are preaching to the choir. Who here is for cancelling the third Zumwalt destroyer so that we can have more LCS ?? – “Just to round out the numbers.”

        By the way, it has now been four years since I read that Russia was shipping hypersonic cruise missiles to Syria, capable of hitting a ship or coastal installation 300 nautical miles away. At that time, I wrote to Chuck Hagel, with this question: “What’s wrong with this picture ? ” No doubt they are bringing more with them as they stock up their fort in Latakia. The last I heard, we were making room for them.

        P.S, Oh, and I forgot, the SSBN, “Dmitir Donskoy”. I wonder, what is the minimum range limitation of a Bulava ballistic missile ? Can it land within 500 miles of its point of launch ?

  • NavySubNuke

    Jacksonville was also the last submarine to undergo shock trials to my knowledge – the OHIOs and Seawolfs certainly didn’t and I am willing to be none of the Virginia’s have either.

  • Sailboater

    12 carriers would be great. So would 72 destoryers 72 frigates and 36 cruisers. Plus 50 gators and 48 supports vessels. Then there are submarines SS. SSN. SSBNs

    • Secundius

      @ Sailboater.

      Unfortunately, the 600-Ship Navy that President Ronald Reagan, envisioned. Started to Shrink even before he Left Office…

      • Sailboater

        Without submarines my dream list is only at 290. With submarines 360 but 10 subs must be non nuclear. 14 Sabin 50 attack boats

        • Secundius

          @ Sailboater.

          NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! In 27 June 2005, the US Government and US Navy. Leased the Swedish AIP/Diesel Submarine Gotland for a Year, then Extended the Lease to Two Years. Everybody in the US Navy LOVED the Sub, NOT-LOVED by US Congress. No, AIP/Diesel Submarines funded by US Congress for the US Navy. To Paraphase: “Personal Profit TALKS, Great Deal For the US Navy WALKS”…

  • StealthFlyer

    Article correction: USS TICONDEROGA is CG-47, not CG-41 as listed.

  • PolicyWonk

    Vital areas like the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf are being gapped of the presence of an aircraft carrier for the first time in decades.

    ====================================
    With all due respect, given the number of combat missions we’re flying in the middle east right now (very low numbers), the land bases we have are more than sufficient to get the job done (for the time being).

    But as I mention in a reply to a thread below, I think we need to concentrate on building more smaller carriers to increase our coverage.

    That said, for the problem with ISIS/Daesh, what I want to know from our policy makers is why none of the arab nations, who have sizable standing armies, aren’t participating in cleaning up their own neighborhood? The armies in the area total up to a couple million soldiers – and ISIS has about 30k fighters. Hello?

    The arab governments and muslim clerics need to get their acts together to help squash the extremism, denounce these people as simple criminals claiming to the Islamic, and work together (and/or with us) to finish them off – and then resolve the social problems that lead people to revolt in the first place. Until they do that – they will have no peace or stability.

    • Curtis Conway

      I think the genesis of your answer is the Middle Eastern countries definition of Evil.

      • PolicyWonk

        The Middle Eastern nations need to determine which side of the fence they are on to remove this common threat. Clearly, there is no such thing in the diplomatic world as the “with us or against us”, when there are so many nuances to the art of diplomacy.

        But what all nations can agree on (which was the strategy recommended by the CIA) is general purpose law enforcement. Taking the approach of creating a “war on terror” is one way to ensure resistance because one man’s “terrorist” is anothers “freedom fighter”.

        • Curtis Conway

          You know I hate that saying: “one man’s “terrorist” is another’s “freedom fighter”. It may be true to some, but not to me. It’s like leaving a living baby lying on a table to harvest his/her organs, and calling it ‘Women’s Health’. There is a letter and a Spirit to everything, and there is such a thing as wrong and right when it comes to the conduct of human beings. A mercenary heart is never Right! It’s Narcissistic, not selfless service. When someone decides that someone else’s way of thinking enables them to commit atrocities against humanity, then we have a problem.
          This is why the United States at the end of WWII took on the mantel of leadership in this cause around the planet. The military’s UCMJ is written the way it is for this reason, so than NO MAN can ever violate the Laws of G-d from which they were derived. Those very rules in the UCMJ are being changed as we write this. Soon there will be no way to determine a legal order save from a tyrant, and then you will know one can be nothing but wrong. There has to be such a thing as Righteousness, or what are you doing?

  • Secundius

    For a Ship that has a Failure Rate of 248 time greater than “Normal” Operation, gives it what? A 0.00004032258% of Standard Approval Rating. Somebody is “Cooking the Books”…

  • Mark Sheehan

    just because a ship is decommissioned don’t mean it gone they sit in ready reserve for years they only just got rid of the Saratoga not long ago if needed there still there we got 280 or so active ships 100 reserve by far more than any one else can muster up