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Report to Congress on Gerald R. Ford Class Aircraft Carrier Program

The following is the April 17, 2017 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the Report

CVN-78, CVN-79, CVN-80, and CVN-81 are the first four ships in the Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs). CVN-78 (named for Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,964.0 million (i.e., about $13.0 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received advance procurement (AP) funding in FY2001-FY2007 and was fully funded in FY2008-FY2011 using congressionally authorized four-year incremental funding. To help cover cost growth on the ship, the ship received an additional $1,394.9 million in FY2014-FY2016 and FY2018 cost-to-complete procurement funding. The ship was delivered to the Navy on May 31, 2017, and was commissioned into service on July 22, 2017.

CVN-79 (named for John F. Kennedy) was procured in FY2013. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $11,341.4 million (i.e., about $11.3 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received AP funding in FY2007-FY2012, and was fully funded in FY2013-FY2018 using congressionally authorized six-year incremental funding. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in September 2024.

CVN-80 (named Enterprise) was procured in FY2018. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,901.7 million (i.e., about $12.9 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received AP funding in FY2016 and FY2017, and the Navy plans to fully fund the ship in FY2018-FY2023 using congressionally authorized six-year incremental funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $1,598.2 million in procurement funding for the ship. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in September 2027.

CVN-81 (not yet named) is scheduled to be procured in FY2023. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $15,088.0 million (i.e., about $15.1 billion) in then-year dollars. The Navy plans to request AP funding for the ship in FY2021 and FY2022, and then fully fund the ship in FY2023-FY2028 using congressionally authorized six-year incremental funding. The Navy’s FY2019 budget submission programs the initial increment of AP funding for the ship in FY2021. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in September 2032.

Oversight issues for Congress for the CVN-78 program for FY2019 include the following:

  • whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2019 procurement funding requests for the CVN-78 program;
  • whether to accelerate the procurement of CVN-81 from FY2023 to an earlier year, or use a block buy contract to procure multiple aircraft carriers, or pursue a combined material buy for multiple aircraft carriers, or do some combination of these things;
  • cost growth in the CVN-78 program, Navy efforts to stem that growth, and Navy efforts to manage costs so as to stay within the program’s cost caps;
  • whether to conduct the shock trial for the CVN-78 class in the near term, on the lead ship in the class, or years later, on the second ship in the class;
  • CVN-78 program issues that were raised in a January 2018 report from the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E); and
  • whether the Navy should shift at some point from procuring large-deck, nuclear powered carriers like the CVN-78 class to procuring smaller aircraft carriers.

via fas.org

  • Beomoose

    The favorable comments from RAND in regards to CVN LX are interesting, and are worth further investigation. My knee-jerk reaction is always against smaller carriers, for a number of reasons, but maybe with the RN putting their carriers into service we’ll be able to mine them for useful data on how a carrier that size actually performs. Additionally, I continue to mull the CSBA’s proposed fleet architecture from last year, which advocates retaining the 12 big CVNs while augmenting them with about 10 CVLs (similar to RAND’s proposal but without nuclear power) paid for by discontinuing further LHDs/LHAs.

    • Rocco

      Agreed except for your last comment!! Why discontinue!! Makes no sense!

  • Curtis Conway

    “…whether to conduct the shock trial for the CVN-78 class in the near term, on the lead ship in the class, or years later, on the second ship in the class;”

    Until the EMALS casualty repair problem is fixed, the Shock Test should be delayed.

  • Ed L

    CVN-81 should be named USS Lexington

    • johnbull

      Or Yorktown or Constellation. A good name with tradition.

      • Ed L

        With the Tico Cruiser Yorktown and her sisterships Vincennes and Thomas S. Gates sitting in inactive ships. They can be stripped down to the maindeck, keeping both 5 inch and be rebuilt as a super ageis/fleet defense ship.

        • D. Jones

          Put LCS guts in their hulls and you’d have room for most if not all of the modules!

        • Scott Ferguson

          Waste of money, on worn out hulls and machinery.

          • Ed L

            The Hulls are not as worn out as the USS Hermitage LSD-34 hull was. In the mid 80’s she experience some minor flooding when running aground going into Moorhead City, when plates buckle. And still was kept in service until 89

          • Scott Ferguson

            They’re worn out.

        • Rocco

          In your fantasy!

    • Rocco

      Lexington can’t be used as it is still a carrier in museum status though! As well as the other 4 ships!! Yorktown was use for a Cruiser!

      • Ctrot

        Not true, no matter how many times you repeat it.

  • Kypros

    Agreed!

    • johnbull

      I’ve got to agree with Duane on this. We’d never agree politically to build enough smaller carriers equal the strike power of a CVN.

      • Bryan

        One of the things to remember about any ship is their utilization differences from peace, cold war and war. The Marines tested various airwing configurations for the America class. Their lightening carrier concept has merit.
        The Navy has used that in the past when they didn’t have enough carriers.
        The LHA’s don’t have enough speed to dash to the problem. They also don’t have enough speed to conduct the same ASW high speed runs that the larger carriers perform to stay safe.
        The only reason to think of using an LHA for a carrier is to save money. And that will only work if you use it as a, “peace time” carrier. That also has merit but would require a whole new way of deploying the carriers. Using something like CSBA’s deployment scheme. That will simply never happen with the Navy unless they are ordered to do it.
        Of course they may mistakenly do it. Can you imagine a time when the Navy, in an effort not to get it’s new technology cancelled places ever more immature tech on it’s new classes of ships to a point where they eventually come across a tech they can’t mature? If that ever happens we will have a new class of ship where the ship can never do it’s mission as stated.
        Oh wait some experts look at the Ford and worry that may just be what happened. And if it just happened did the Navy already buy the new tech for the Kennedy? If so we could have two carriers that will NEVER get close to the Navy’s required sortie rate. i.e. we might have wasted over 30 billion dollars because the Navy knowingly placed EMALS and AAG on the carrier too soon.
        I assure you that if the EMALS in the Ford can’t be back fitted to allow individual cats to be taken offline then it will never be suitable to go to war.

        • Retired

          ahh, “ASW high speed turns” I remember well the many days we spent out on the range ‘dodging’ torpedoes-good times.

      • Beomoose

        The idea would be to have 12 large CVNs PLUS 10-ish CVL or CVN-LX smaller carriers. The thinking goes that, since we already have 10 LHD/LHAs it’s an attainable number. I absolutely do not support replacing the big carriers wholesale.

        • Rocco

          Dammed if we do dammed if we don’t!! I can’t see us eventually replacing every Nimitz class for a Ford down the line. We need a medium sized carrier conventional powered to fill in the gap! & They can be forward deployed in countries like Japan & Naples Italy!

    • Rocco

      Ditto… The only sense he has made!

  • Chesapeakeguy

    The 4th carrier should be named USS Midway. That was the first MASSIVE US naval victory of WWII, and eliminated any doubts that the carrier reigned supreme in offensive naval warfare. Like the name “Enterprise”, there should ALWAYS be a US aircraft carrier named “Midway”. Quit naming these ships for damned politicians.

    • Rocco

      Agreed but…. Can’t use Midway!

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Why not? The original “Midway” is now a museum. The Navy had the most recent USS Yorktown in commission while having CV-10 as the museum it has been for some decades now.

        • Rocco

          Can’t be used for the same class of ship … Yorktown as I said above is not a CV! The Name has to be stricken off the Navy list to be reused! The old Essex class Names are reused for the WASP class! Hence none are reused that are Museum’s!

          • Chesapeakeguy

            I did not know that. Thank you. Then I respectfully submit that we build the “USS Marianas Turkey Shoot”! A great moment for carrier aviation.

          • Rocco

            There’s a Name lol a la Intrepid!! Hint hint!!⚓️😉🤐

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Or Saratoga? A great name in naval aviation.

          • Rocco

            Agreed!! Or my ship Forrestal!. I boarded the SARA in Philly when we both were in SLEP!!

          • Ctrot

            USS John F Kennedy (CV-67) is decommissioned and available for museum status and yet CVN-79 has been named USS John F. Kennedy, both carriers.

  • Hugh

    Just thinking: Planes and carriers came along and battleships withdrew. Now with all sorts of missiles, which can be carried on everything from disguised small vessels to drone swarms, how to best utilise carriers in major engagements in a hot war with a near peer adversary who would follow no rules?

  • PolicyWonk

    Very little commentary on the EMALS and AAG problems that prevent the USS Ford from deploying as a combat asset. Nor is there any discussion w/r/t the USN openly declaring recommissioning a mothballed carrier to make up for USS Ford’s absence until they get EMALS and AAG problems ironed out.

    They do state that EMALS and AAG will still be used on the Ford’s sisters, despite them being unusable (along with zero announcement regarding fixing of blatant design errors, and EMALS lack of redundancy).

    With the USS Ford, we might have another carrier commissioned into the USN, but if she’s unusable in combat, then how does she solve any problems? Or do we simply accept the fact that the USS Ford is only going to serve as an overgrown LHA until EMALS and AAG are fixed?

    DoD/naval acquisition are such a MESS… The USN has had a number of really, really lousy program management that its simply disheartening.

    The USS Ford cannot reliably launch/trap aircraft; the EFT’s aren’t living up to their requirements (this, despite the fact the USN leased them for years before buying) in range or capabilities; and the so-called “littoral combat ship” program is such a miserable failure, the USN itself calls it “the program that broke naval acquisition”.

    Yet – here the HoR’s are ready to hand them billions of dollars of taxpayer funds; no heads are rolling, and in the case with “the program that broke naval acquisition”, the USN decided to reward the incompetents that are PEO LCS by giving them oversight of all SSC and smaller platforms, including the FFG(X) that’s supposed to provide cover for the ultra-useless pier-queens that are LCS.

    I can hardly wait for the next exciting episode of this never-ending DoD Acquisition soap opera, a.k.a. “As The Stomach Turns…”

    • Desertmole

      JFK is too far along to do anything about EMALS or AAG. Enterprise (and presumably CVN-81) will be completed with the same Arresting Gear system used on the Nimitz class. Read recently that there has been a $571m cost overrun on the original $172m AAG program. And the damn stuff still doesn’t work. The class is stuck with EMALS, as the reactors don’t generate enough steam to power a legacy catapult system. The class will never be able to generate enough sorties to match a Nimitz class surge.

  • Kypros

    I support putting small detachments of of F-35Bs on current LHA/LHDs. Great force multiplier! However, I’m not as concerned about the Ford class cost as some folks here. I mean, they are designed for a half century of use and won’t need a mid life refueling which will save billions per ship. As long as EMALS can be fixed, (IF), I see no issue with replacing the Nimitz class with them, one for one.