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HII: Future Carrier John F. Kennedy Construction Costs Down, Ship Will Launch Next Year

The final piece of the underwater hull of the future aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is lowered into place at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding in September. Photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Huntington Ingalls Industries executives expect the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) to launch by the end of 2019, which is ahead of schedule and will occur roughly six years since the christening of first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

Kennedy – about 84 percent structurally complete and 53 percent complete overall – is ahead of schedule and fewer manhours are being used to build the ship, Mike Petters, chief executive of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), said Thursday during a conference call discussing the company’s third quarter financial results with Wall Street analysts.

“I think [Government Accountability Office] did a report and pointed out that the best manhour reduction from one ship to the next in the carrier program was like 9 percent,” Petters said. “Our performance today is 15 percent.”

For the quarter, HII reported revenues of $2.1 billion, compared to revenues of $1.9 billion a year ago. Earnings for the quarter were $229 million, compared with earnings of $149 million a year ago, according to the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The use of digital shipbuilding imagery is a major reason for the reduction in manhours, Petters said. The images are more accurate and provide workers a more precise guide of what jobs need to be accomplished, reducing the time to perform tasks and cutting the number of jobs requiring rework. Long-term, HII’s goal is for all ship designs to be 3-D and digital, Petters previously told USNI News.

For HII, securing a long-sought-after two-carrier contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81 relies heavily on proving the follow-on Ford-class carriers can be built on time and within budget, Petters said. The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes a “two-carrier buy if anticipated savings can be confirmed,” Petters said.

Currently, Congress has set a cap for Kennedy at $11.4 billion, which if maintained, would represent nearly 15 percent drop in price from Ford’s $13 billion price tag. Interestingly, a 15 percent price drop is what HII officials have previously stated was the goal for the third Ford-class ship.

A composite photo illustration representing the Ford-class aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). US Navy Image

Whether the Navy and HII can achieve such savings has been a near constant source of debate on Capitol Hill. Critics of Ford’s construction, which ran billions of dollars over budget and two years behind schedule, often cite this history when voicing skepticism of Kennedy’s schedule.

“CVN-78 costs over $2 billion more than estimated and the Navy accepted delivery of the carrier over two years late, yet still before it was complete,” the GAO said in a June 2017 shipbuilding report.

Production manhours are the top reason costs can balloon, according to the report. However, the Navy’s plan for building CVN-79 was considered by GAO analysts as overly optimistic regarding scheduling and accounting for various risk factors that could delay construction and drive up costs.

“For example, the Navy is unlikely to achieve planned construction efficiencies and is still developing technology necessary to meet requirements. Therefore, costs for CVN-79 are likely to exceed the $11.4 billion estimate,” the GAO report states.

When discussing Kennedy’s progress on Thursday, Petters said by beating past expectations for reducing manhours and staying within budget, HII will be in a strong position at a time defense spending is expected to get tougher.

“I’m pretty happy with where we are because I think we are in a much more competitive position and I think our products are going to be more affordable,” Petters said. “In an environment where every dollar in the budget is a knife fight, that’s not a bad place for us to be.”

  • Curtis Conway

    Even at $3+ Billion each we are better off building new Nimitz Class, and investing the difference in things we really need. Fleecing of America ! . . . pure and simple.

    “…securing a long-sought-after two-carrier contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81 relies heavily on proving the follow-on Ford-class carriers can be built on time and within budget…”

    The Kennedy at $11.4 billion is a bargain?! So much for recouping all that Non-Recurring Engineering Development cost! We can now ‘man the ship’ with fewer people, while separating ‘more treasure’ from the public trough doing so! Who is patriotic here? These same folks give us a hard time about building a decent multi-warfare combat capable frigate, of which we will build many more of, and ask it to do much more with, over a greater span of the planet. What gives?

    • NavySubNuke

      Don’t be so negative Curtis!
      In reality the fact that we spend more buying the Ford’s will eventually pay itself off in the long run thanks to their much smaller crews. You only pay for the ship once but we are going to spend 50 years paying the crew.

      • Curtis Conway

        Got some numbers to put it in perspective? A CVN brings a lot to the table for response to any situation, but most of the time an LHA-6 configured appropriately in an Expeditionary Strike Group will be more than enough.

        • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

          It’s also a big, juicy target.

          • Curtis Conway

            Not germane in this conversation.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Yes, why would history be relevant to any discussion?

          • Then let’s assume history is indeed relevant. Supercarriers have been around for over 60 years and not one such vessel has been sunk by enemy fire.

            Supercarriers can be described as nuclear thresholds. An enemy that sinks its crew of 4,000, two reactors, 100,000 tons and 80 aircraft would only invite a counterattack so overwhelming as to be unthinkable. A 34 year-old Lt. Commander aboard a Russian or Chinese sub would have the decision taken out of his hands by Moscow and Beijing. Sink an American aircraft carrier and you lose your Capitol. This is why supercarriers have sailed on unmolested for over six decades.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Yes, I concur. My point was that they are very large targets and as such, battleships once roamed the seas to.

            Times change.

          • Curtis Conway

            No such thing as a Nuclear Battleship. Mutually Assured Destruction and the new Nuclear Age changed all of that. THAT is HiStory!

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            I believe that Russian one is nuclear powered?

          • Curtis Conway

            The Kirov-class battlecruiser is a class of nuclear-powered warship of the Russian Navy. One could argue it is a Battleship, but it doesn’t quite have the tonnage.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Same argument, a floating target. I remember when Reagan reactivated the Missouri. A proud ship

          • Curtis Conway

            Same reply as TMark above. The only way to destroy a BB is with a nuclear weapon. There are some submariners who will argue with me, and they do have an argument. However, TMark’s premise stands. If you sink a huge piece of state property and kill over 1,000 service members, there will be a quick and certain response.

          • Rocco

            Not in agreement Curtis. A well placed bomb right down a ship BB stack is all it will take it sink her.

          • Curtis Conway

            So, if you brought out the BB(s) you would bring the BB’s back with the same propulsion in its current configuration?

          • Rocco

            Yes why spend money money on a one of a kind propulsion?? If you are talking about Iowa’s? & Only one is able to sail again.

          • Curtis Conway

            The engineers have been sharp penciling the LM2500 conversion for several decades. With the current administration, and James Mattis in charge we could probably pull it off with Rapid Prototyping. Replace the wooden deck, and completely replace the engineering spaces.

          • Rocco

            Sir you are dreaming!! You know how much that would cost.?? Besides not practical. I was at Home Depot last week & I saw a guy with a BB Missouri hat on . So I had to ask if he was a crewman. He said yes. He was a weapons officer. He was also stationed at Earl Naval Weapons Station in NJ. I asked him if we Still have 16″ rounds for the Wisconsin to use. He just Smiled 😀

          • Curtis Conway

            I hear you. We are going to have to do something. Recovering the old CG-47 hulls would be significantly less expensive to building new. That could be a stopgap X four units for a couple of decades. A replacement cruiser has not transpired. We have seen NOTHING of DDG-1000 capability in various seas including the Arctic. We haven’t even seen a demonstration of its vaunted Tumblehome bow and hull in heavy weather! Should that EVER Happen . . . maybe a decision can be made for the future. In the mean time, DDG-51s with expanded birthing and additional Flag Spaces around CIC will have to be prepared to handle AAW Commander duties in a pinch in the future. That FFG(X) is going to have to be a Hum-Dinger because it will be the Go-To platform as we try to grow the fleet more rapidly. I hope more consideration to an Fuel Cell AIP SSn is considered as a measure to make more submarines faster, at lower cost, to replace SSNs doing small things around the globe, because their Big Things are coming, and we need the SSNs doing those Big Things.

          • Rocco

            Agreed. I think the Navy is afraid to sail the ship up the artic!! We’re getting soft!!

          • Curtis Conway

            And loosing our skills & experience. We did it with the SWO Community, and we are doing it with these perishable skills in seamanship. It’s one thing to employ the ship’s combat systems. It’s something entirely different when doing it while battling the elements . . . like the Arctic . . . at the same time.

          • Rocco

            Copy that. As to why all the stupid incidents of poor seamanship that killed many sailors that could still be alive, not to mention taking ships out of action! There will be empty chairs at the dinner table this Thanksgiving!!!

          • Duane

            World War Two says you’re wrong. Any modern updated BB can easily be overwhelmed with a few hundred long range ASCMs, or even a single torpedo detonating under the keel.

            In war, everyone expects a quick and certain response. That’s why they call it “war”and not “diplomacy”.

          • Curtis Conway

            The ‘sinking the carrier’ argument applies. We typically don’t talk about the undersea arena, but you are correct. Guys, I’m not suggesting bringing back the battleships. It’s too late for that anyway. However, the Cruisers are not getting any younger, and you guys are not providing anything but ARGUMENTS… how about some SOLUTIONS?

          • So which is more vulnerable: a “floating target” moving 30 knots, or a fixed target on a land base? For example, do you believe a supercarrier that has shifted its position by 10 miles every 20 minutes is more vulnerable than fixed U.S. Air Force bases in S.Korea, Okinawa or Guam?

            And so if the mission of both air bases and aircraft carriers is to project airpower, which aircraft would the enemy find easier to destroy first?

          • Curtis Conway

            This is why the FBM force is so important, and delay in its replacement is more than just ill advised. In fact not replacing it on a one for one basis is also ill-advised. The current system works. Anything less is an experiment.

            This is another argument for improvement of the TRIAD without delay.

            Also, not having a plentiful and capable SSN force is irresponsible, particularly IF our two primary potential adversaries started FBM patrols. It is time to have a Hi-Low mix of submarines with the Low mix boat costing half of the Hi-end boat as a legal criteria specified by Congress.

          • Duane

            Of course, that argument disappears once the war begins. Whether a war goes to strategic nuclear weapons or not is a political decision, not a military decision. But in a real naval war, far more likely with China than Russia, what have the Chinese got to lose if they sink a CSG? You think the Chinese leader give a rat’s patootie if a few million of their 1.5B population gets wiped out in a nuclear exchange? Nah, don’t bet on it, they killed many tens of millions of their own population after the communists won their war in 1949 with their Great Leap Forward in the 50s and their cultural revolution in the 70s. Most of their existing People’s Liberation Army is in fact a garrison force whose main mission is to put down rebellions by their own people.

            So then it will come down to, can we protect our CVNs and CSGs from massive salvos, numbering in hundreds if not thousands, of cheap long range ASCMs coming from a huge base of platforms (land based, sea based, and air based)?

            Today, I think not. We have a real problem because we cannot possibly deploy enough anti-missile missiles on our surface ships to withstand that kind of attack.

            Unless and until we can devise and deploy an effective cheap and deep magazine weapon system like railguns or directed energy weapons, any US surface fleet can quickly be turned into a mass naval graveyard.

            Of course, we can do exactly the same to the Chinese surface fleet.

            I think we are in effect in much the same position today as the world’s navies were in 1941 – saddled with massive investments in obsolete super battleships that could not withstand a concentrated air attack from either ship based or ground based aircraft. Most of the battleships spent most of the war hiding in home port, or were relegated to carrier task force or amphib invasion force gun platforms, where they turned out to be pretty ineffective anyway. They destroyed many thousands of palm trees on those Pacific islands, but to their horror our Marines and GIs discovered that the big shells could not defeat the tunnel systems out of which the Japanese did their murderous best to defend themselves, at huge cost to our forces.

          • If the Chinese CCP were not concerned about killing millions of their own people, then they would have invaded Taiwan by now and would have taken Hong Kong well before the 1999 British handover. Both actions, had they occurred, would have invited crippling sanctions far beyond any Tiananmen or Tibet scandals. So the CCP knows where the red line is, and sinking an American supercarrier – even in a hot war – would result in DEFCON-1 and the presidential helicopter arriving at the White House for nuclear evacuation. Thus America’s nuclear triad protects its forward deployed forces.

            Secondly, the prospect of massive salvos against American warships can’t be seen in a vacuum where American bases are somehow immune. In such a scenario the U.S. Air Force would be destroyed first because its bases in S.Korea, Okinawa and Guam are stationary, not moving 30 knots like naval vessels. Fixed bases have their coordinates already programmed in to enemy rocketry.

            And so the ‘Chinese-salvos-don’t-care’ argument is essentially a call to deactivate and retreat ALL forward deployed U.S. forces, which would only result in a surrender of S.Korea, Taiwan, the Second Island Chain, and freedom of the seas for that matter.

          • NavySubNuke

            “Most of the battleships spent most of the war hiding in home port, or were relegated to carrier task force or amphib invasion force gun platforms, where they turned out to be pretty ineffective anyway.”
            You really should try to learn more about WWII sometime and how it was actually fought — it would help keep you from making embarrassing statements like this.
            You can flag this post all you like because I’ve pointed out yet again that you are wrong and have no idea what you are talking about — but that doesn’t change the fact that you are yet again wrong and have no idea what you are talking about.
            “Neptune’s Inferno” by Hornfischer would be a good book to start you off on your education about what actually happened in the pacific during WWII and what a key role battleships played in it despite what uneducated people would have you believe.

          • Curtis Conway

            Well, HiStory is always relevant to the discussion. What’s your point?

        • IssacBabel

          Lacking working cats, traps and weapons elevators, the new JFK is functionally a really big LHA.

          • Curtis Conway

            An LHA cost $3Billion. How much have we spent on JFK already? At some point in the future we are going to have to pay down the debt, yet still accomplish our missions. How do you want to do that?

          • Duane

            LHA-6 had a unit cost in 2015 of $3.4B (for a new ship being laid down now, it would be closer to $4B), but you’re ignoring the $10.1B program cost that has to be allocated across all the America class hulls. Real cost is at least $5-6B per hull. For a 45,000 ton hull, less than half the displacement of a 100K ton Ford Class. And only about 1/4 the flight ops capacity of a Ford. Plus a lifetime of fuel that has to be bought and delivered by an oiler, so you have to throw in the lifetime cost of fuel and oilers too. The Ford has a lifetime fuel supply built in.

            The math is what the Navy likes about the big deck CVNs. They cost a lot, but not out of proportion to their size, and the economies of scale completely make the sale.

          • Curtis Conway

            You know Duane, that is the most coherent and cogent argument I have ever seen you make. Kudos.

            My argument in the past, and it still stands, is that if half the planned LHAs are USS America (LHA-6) Class, then additional fixed wing air can be brought to bear. Additional amphibious lift will be provided with LPD Flt II, and Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)/Mobile Basing.

          • Duane

            Thank you Curtis. The truth is we need a mix of aviation amphibs serving as the lightweight carrier plus the CVNs. It is not an all or nothing argument for either ship type. I think we actually have a pretty good mix now, and the Marines are lobbying hard to upsize and upgrade the aviation amphib fleet now that they have the world’s most capable air asset, the F-35B.

          • Matthew Schilling

            We can simply make a big bonfire out of the $6B or so of the debt the govt owns. For instance, sell the Social Security Admin lots of Fed owned real estate for all those T-Bills, then burn them (the T-Bills).

          • Curtis Conway

            You remind me of that guy in the insurance commercial who threw his money in the bay . . . and immediately regretted it.

          • Rocco

            Liberty Mutual!! Except I can’t see if any of our liberties are mutually!!

          • Duane

            The JFK is not functioning at all, it is under construction.

            Everything on the Ford works fine. It underwent a very successful shakedown cruise earlier this year – the only system that did not perform well was the simplest system on any ship – the thrust bearing for one of the screws. It was machined improperly by the subcontractor. The flight ops went great, about 800 successful cats and traps. Pilots loved the EMALS – it provides a much smoother takeoff acceleration than the old steam cats. That’s why it will lead to a 25% increase in the airframe lifetime of catapulted aircraft, with lower maintenance costs..

          • Rocco

            Seriously!! The propulsion system just busted a gear in it that’s gonna cost taxpayers over a million to fix!!

        • Rocco

          Agreed again

        • NavySubNuke

          Just posted this for RobM as well but here goes:
          The actual cost per year of a US sailor is, according to a 2007 RAND study based on FY2005 year data $174,000. Given what has happened to health care costs and the pay raises the military has received since then the average cost is certainly over $200,000 already and rising each year.
          Rather than trying to calculate the actual increase I used the Bureau of Labor and Statistics CPI inflation calculator and found that $174,000 in Jan 2005 is worth $230,000 today. So if we cut 500 crew at $230,000 per head we end up saving $115M this year alone. Over 50 years, and assuming inflation continues at an average of 3% we end up saving over $12.9B. Per carrier.
          Let’s say we only save 250 crew — over 50 years with 3% interest that still nets us a savings of over $6B. And again, that is per carrier.
          And remember we started from $230,000 which is almost certainly a low ball estimate for what each sailor costs given that both military pay and health care costs have outpaced inflation since 2005.

          • Curtis Conway

            Can you run the numbers on using half the CV force-mix with LHA-6 Large Deck Aviation Platforms in place of five (5) CVNs, including the fuel, and throw in the development of a V/STOVL AEW&C aircraft? There is reduced manning on the LHA, and a smaller airwing. The new LHA-6 Class Light Carrier should use the same propulsion system as the USS Makin Island (LHD-8), as should the LX(R).

          • NavySubNuke

            If we are going to go the light carrier route we need something big enough to handle conventional aircraft not just V/STOVL. Cutting ourselves down to 5 CVNs total and only having V/STOVL capable light carriers beside that is a terrible idea.
            Need something with 2 cats to be a viable “low” end carrier. Otherwise we are sacrificing far too much even if we build 12 LHA-6’s in place of the 5 CVNs. V/STOVL just aren’t capable enough head to head for a peer competitor.

          • Curtis Conway

            The majority of the Presence and collective response mission sets do not require CVN firepower, which is MOST of the planet. I will concede that 5 CVNs may be too small particularly for a peer contest, so grow it a little, convert ARG large decks to Light Carriers that can go both ways (additional amphibious lift provided with ESBs & LX(R)) and augment that force. Modify the ESBs with an angled flight deck, and expand its hangar space. A SSn in littoral waters could be a valuable element against even a peer contest depending on the theater. This frees up the SSNs to do what they do best.

          • NavySubNuke

            In my mind we need at least 8 CVNs so we can always have 2 deployed and another either nearly ready or actually ready to deploy. We can also count on having at least 1-2 more ready to go to sea if a war starts.
            Trying to build an ARG that could swap between being amphib heavy or a light carrier sounds like a great way to end up with a large deck – LCS — all the costs of both but none of the benefits. Same goes with an undersea LCS which is really just any SSn/SSK/AIP. Sure they sound appealing but waiting for one to slowly crawl it’s way into their littorals at 4 knots to nowhere is not really a viable way to fight the war.
            If we are going to try a high/.ow mix of carriers we really do need to have a real “low” and build a capable light carrier.

          • Rocco

            Agreed

          • Rocco

            The best we can do with the current LHA -6 platform is to Stretch them to 900′!, You can put an angle deck on them but only for more space & maybe faster recovery of F-35B’s . Even EMAILS on the bow would require extensive cost even from scratch.

          • Rocco

            Agreed, a 60K ton ship about the size of the Midway should do the trick.

          • Rocco

            The propulsion system is already similar to Makin Island, with improvements.

      • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

        Smaller crew sizes will prove to be a problem. My crystal ball puts ten cents on adding 5-10% more people to maintain all the crew reduction technology by the second major overhaul.
        I would love to loose my dime.

        • Curtis Conway

          Did we not learn this lesson with the Littoral Combat Ship? They tried to automate one of the Aegis Cruisers to a crew under 200. The results of that I have never read anything about anywhere. The DDG-51 Flt IIIs are supposed to be more lightly manned, but I have seen nothing on this either.

          The LCS manning problem was solved by adding people, then they threw a curve ball into the mix by taking the equipment from the technicians and giving it someone else in crew rotations. Someone gets their hands on my equipment . ? . . . and I come back and find out just how bad it has been (not) maintained . . . heads are going to roll. THAT is why we have Plane Captains. Personal responsibility for an item is huge, and if someone else is introduced into the mix, how can you be held responsible? Human nature is human nature, and the ‘powers that be’ always try to buck it with their NEW THING! Don’t quote the submarine crew argument for they are a special bunch, and there are only so many of those people walking around.

          • Rocco

            Agreed

          • Duane

            LCS crews have not been substantially increased – the crew complement including mission module crew varies a bit, depending upon which mission module is deployed, but it is within a range of about 70-75. What has changed is the Navy moved from a 3-2-1 crewing concept to a Blue-Gold crewing concept, which results in a small increase in total crew required across the fleet. And now the mission module crewing, because the modules will no longer be changed out on a mission by mission basis, but longer term (such as after major maintenance availabilities or deployments) remains tied to the core hull crew on a long term basis to preserve crew continuity.

            The DDG-1000s need a complement of less than half that of a DDG-51.

          • Curtis Conway

            “…mission module crewing…remains tied to the core hull crew on a long term basis to preserve crew continuity.” . . . providing shipboard Damage Control Teams. This was the rub before, because GQ pretty much put everyone on a combat station with little DQ availability.

          • NavySubNuke

            “The plans for LCS — as of early 2011 — called for a core crew of 40 sailors with 19 attached to one of the ships’ planned mission packages and 23 sailors as part of the aviation detachment for a total of 89 sailors.” USNI News “Report: LCS Manning Could Permanently Increase by 2015” Published Sept 24, 2013
            Currently the LCS core crew is 50 —- that is a 25% increase.
            I’m not sure how “substantial” is defined in your world but a 25% increase in the size of the crew is pretty substantial to me.
            Especially when you consider, as you said above, that the Navy shifted from the plan of having 3 crews 2 hulls to having 4 crews to two hulls (2 crews for each). Which means the actual costs are far higher.
            Instead of 120 core crew for 2 hulls we are left with 200 core crew for 2 hulls — 80 extra sailors for every 2 hulls at $230,000 per sailor means added costs of $294M per year for a 32 ship LCS class.
            Assuming LCS have a 25 years service life that means added costs of $7.3B even without including inflation…… that seems pretty substantial to me!

          • Duane

            So you are saying that in 2011, before we started operating any of these ships, and before any of the mission modules were anywhere near completed yet, that the Navy estimated a minimum complement of 69 would be needed.

            I wrote that 7 years later, after full development and operations experience of the hulls has been established, and one of the MMs is now operatioal (SuW) with the other two (ASW and MCM) following close behind, the current complement for an LCS varies, depending upon which mission module is deployed, between 70 and 75. That is a difference of one sailor.

            And the number you quoted, if it is even real, completely ignores that it takes different crewing for different ship’s equipment. That what is needed for SuW is quite different from what is needed for crewing ASW or for MCM.

            And you are completely wrong – the Navy did not model Blue Gold in 2011, the Navy modeled 3-2-1. The switch to Blue Gold was made as a result of gaining actual operating experience on the first half dozen ships, and which enables the LCS to readily embark on 1-2 year forward deployments, while all other US Navy surface warships are capable of only 6-7 months forward deployed at a time. So the Navy gets a far better bang for its hardware buck with this system, which all the other surface warships are incapable of deploying. This is a feature, dude, not a bug.

            And, of course you are also ignoring that since 2011, the equipment on the LCS has changed and grown radically in capability and lethality, because the real world of our adversaries has completely transformed itself in the last decade. The Chinese embarked upon a radical upsizing and up-capability of their naval fleet to where it now exceeds the size in total hulls of the US Navy, and the Chinese have grown far more aggressive in their behavior at the same time.

            So to implement the US Navy’s response to the radically increased Chinese naval threat, the Navy has ordered much more lethality, well distributed, throughout the entire fleet, including the LCS. So when you start adding new missile defense (like SeaRAM), and new offensive weapons (like the new Naval Strike Missile), and add much more capable unmanned systems like the MQ-8C and the CUSV and the Knifefish, and you add new sensors and new battle management systems (COMBATTS21), then someone has to actually operate those systems.

            To have added all of that new lethality and capability over 7 years, and only increased the minimum crew size by just one sailor, is a remarkable achievement, unprecedented in any other naval ship we’ve ever reconfigured in US Navy history.

            And you’re complaining about that?

            SMH

          • NavySubNuke

            I’m not complaining about anything — I simply pointed out that it is factually incorrect for you to state that “LCS crews have not been substantially increased” when in fact the crew has been increased over 25% since the ship was designed.
            I realize you have no knowledge or experience with shipbuilding programs but that is a big deal considering when the Navy switched gears and added 25% more crew in ~2015 the ships were already in the water.
            Also, actually read my post — i never claimed the Navy switched from 3-2-1 to Blue and Gold in 2011. It is common knowledge that the change was made after a number of severe mechanical breakdowns were caused by crew errors.

          • Graeme Rymill

            “LCS crews have not been substantially increased”.

            From the July 2013 Office of Chief of Operations (OPNAV) report — Littoral Combat Ship Manning Concepts:
            [In 2003] “the Navy determined that 75 berthing spaces would be available on the ship to support a core crew of 40 members, an embarked aviation detachment with 20 members,and a mission module detachment with 15 crew members, for a total LCS complement of 75.”

            From the same July 2013 report:
            “In May 2013, the Navy determined that additional permanent accommodations for a total crew size of 98 should be incorporated in all LCS class ships.”

            From USNI News article September 8 2016
            “Results of New LCS Review is Departure from Original Vision” :

            “The new crew arrangement will have a core crew of 70 sailors that will
            be trained to conduct one of the three warfare missions and a 23 person
            air detachment for a total of 93 sailors aboard.”

            The 98 total was achieved by converting 2 tier bunks to 3 tier bunks.

          • Duane

            Air detachments are never considered part of the hull complement, whether CVNs or LCS or LHDs. You are comparing apples and oranges.

          • Graeme Rymill

            You can slice it and dice it any way you want. It will still show a substantial increase in LCS crew size. Let’s exclude the air detachment just to please you:
            In 2003 40 core crew + 15 mission module crew = 55 crew
            In 2016 70 core crew including mission module crew.
            From 55 to 70 is a 27% increase in crew size.

        • Rocco

          I’ll raise you a nickel!

      • Rocco

        Worry about that when it happens!!

      • RobM1981

        How much smaller?

        If we pay $100,000 for a sailor, per year (and you know that we don’t), then $1B would require us to reduce the crew count by 200, for 50 years. It’s 8th grade math.

        If we pay $50,000/year, per sailor, then we’d better find 400 crew members no longer needed – for 50 years.

        If those 50 years include years of refit, where sailors are reassigned, then it had better be more like 500 sailors no longer assigned.

        Just for $1B

        If a Nimitz is $3 or $4B less, then it would be cheaper to run a brand new, fully modernized Nimitz, unless the Ford’s can run with between 1,500 and 2,000 fewer sailors… and nobody believes that this is even remotely true.

        We’ve heard “fewer sailors” since the 1950’s. Invariably what we end up with is an over-crowded ship, when the USN realizes that the HAL 9000 isn’t quite up to the task, and they need to deploy more sailors into a ship that wasn’t designed for it.

        Hot racking… every sailors dream.

        • Duane

          The ship’s crew (not counting the air wing) is reduced by 1/3 on the Ford as compared to the Nimitz. The reduction in nuclear trained crew is even larger – a 50% reduction – these are the most expensive to train and to retain of a CVN’s crew.

          Also crew costs include far more than the payroll of assigned crew. All of the benefits (including retirement, housing allowance, family medical, moving costs, etc.) must be factored in. Also, the crew of a ship requires a pipeline of trainees coming in, and must also provide for off ship training assignments and shore rotations too. So while the complement of a ship may be 300, it’s actual crew cost reflects a much larger number than that, and goes far beyond payroll.

          The fact is the cost of crewing a manned ship is by far the largest operations and maintenance cost of any naval warship.

          • RobM1981

            Thanks.

            I’m not saying that the Ford’s aren’t better designs than the Nimitz’s. They clearly can fly off more planes, have far more power (for future things), etc. They appear to be better designs in almost every way.

            But they are a LOT more expensive. Using the numbers here, they are between $3 and $4B more than a Nimitz. Is that about right?

            It’s an increase of approximately 50% in cost, for a new hull that (if you believe the Wiki) will fly about 25% more Sorties.

            Thus if you want to keep the sortie-rate equivalent, you need five Nimitz’s to four Fords.

            Four Fords will cost you about $8B more than five Nimitz’s. Yes, the hull is THAT much more expensive. Fewer Fords cost more than more Nimitz’s.

            However, five Nimitz’s will use, if you believe the Wiki, about 3,000 more sailors (combined). At $75,000/year, per sailor, that’s $11.3B.

            So, over 50 years, five Nimitz’s will cost about $2.7B more than four Fords to put the same number of sorties in the air.

            Is that a bargain? It’s a savings, but it’s not huge – particularly since I’m over-pricing the sailors. Even with a lot of nukes, it ain’t $75,000/sailor. Moreover, five hulls can control a larger area than four. Five Nimitz’s would cover more area than four Fords, and have higher availability, all else being equal.

            Call it a wash, but don’t call it a bargain.

            Cutting edge has always been expensive, and CVN’s are where you want your cutting edge. CVN’s, DDG, SSN/SSBN, FFG (ugh…). These are the pointy end of the spear, where we need the best, so let’s pay for the best.

            But enough with the “cost savings” talk. The Fords are expensive. Unlike the LCS’s, however, they do appear to deliver.

          • NavySubNuke

            Not to beat a dead horse but as I said above in my reply you are actually dramatically under pricing sailors at $75,000 per head. The actual costs are far far higher.
            Google “The Cost of a Military Person-Year A Method for Computing Savings from Force Reductions” if you want to see the RAND study.

          • RobM1981

            I like simpler math.

            2019 budget is about $100,000/head.

            Simple math leads to simpler answers. Complex math is necessary for physics and such, and I can (and do) do that. I find that when complex math is brought into simple things like this, it leaves too much room for “interpretation.”

            The Ford’s are expensive. That’s OK, within limits, but let’s not call them a bargain – particularly not until the “personnel savings” actually occur.

            Remember Tullibee? SSN 597 was supposed to run with a complement of three people and a cat. The LCS was sold with a very small crew in mind, reported on these very pages, but the actual number of crewmembers being deployed is now around 100, I seem to recall. Any less and the crew are worked too much.

            There’s a lot of new technology on the Ford. We’ll see if the smaller crew idea holds up.

          • NavySubNuke

            If you want to massively understate the costs that is but I hope you realize that in no way is the cost per service member anything close to $100,000 per head even if you simplify things and ignore deferred costs like retirement and the 9/11 GI bill. You can’t just look at the salary only portion of a service members cost – that doesn’t include things like sea pay, BAH, BAS, retention/reenlistment bonuses, tricare costs (especially for those with dependents).
            Certainly the proof will come in a few years after a few deployments but again, even a modest reduction in crew (250 heads) spread over 50 years of operations will reap billions of dollars in savings over the life of the ship. We only pay for the ship 1 time, we pay for the crew every year the ship remains in service and even the first year or two after while she is de-fueled and moved to storage.
            NR did a great job cutting bodies from the Virginia class – it continues to be a success today – and I have every confidence in their ability to do the same to FORD. The carriers were so overmanned to being with it is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

          • Rocco

            You also kinda gotta figure out the life of the ship besides it’s cost is it gonna be useful in service once we don’t have jets to fly off them??? The Navy don’t care taxpayers paid for it!! They’ll just decom the ship !!

        • NavySubNuke

          We pay way more then $100,000 per sailor per year, especially when you include those sailors with families. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the only cost each sailor represents is their direct salary, allotments, allowances, and special pays. Remember there is all of the indirect costs too, plus the cost of initial training, the cost of the support personnel required to support each sailor. Oh and of course the deferred costs for those who stay in until retirement.
          The actual cost per year of a US sailor is actually, according to a 2007 RAND study based on FY2005 year data $174,000. Given what has happened to health care costs and the pay raises the military has received since then the average cost is certainly over $200,000 already and rising each year.
          Rather than trying to calculate the actual increase I used the Bureau of Labor and Statistics CPI inflation calculator and found that $174,000 in Jan 2005 is worth $230,000 today. So if we cut 500 crew at $230,000 per head we end up saving $115M this year alone. Over 50 years, and assuming inflation continues at an average of 3% we end up saving over $12.9B. Per carrier.
          Let’s say we only save 250 crew — over 50 years with 3% interest that still nets us a savings of over $6B. And again, that is per carrier.
          And remember we started from $230,000 which is almost certainly a low ball estimate for what each sailor costs given that both military pay and health care costs have outpaced inflation since 2005.

          • Rocco

            So what!! I’d rather pay them than have ships undermanned period. You run a ship short handed guess who gets double watches!! Guess who gets no chow or sleep???? This wares crews thin not to mention not happy crew makes for poor performance!!

          • NavySubNuke

            The whole idea is to have less crew needed in the first place. NR did a lot of work to get rid of extra nukes in the engine-room on our submarines – and they succeeded. The Virginia’s are doing great with a noticeably smaller engineering department than our other boats. I have every confidence they have been able to do the same for our carriers.

          • Rocco

            Yeah I get that, however their stretched thin on man power. The only good thing is the living conditions won’t be like a lot of us here had to deal with.

          • Duane

            The way it works, Rocco, is not keeping the same old systems and just cutting the crew size, which is what you imply. What happens is technology, including computing, sensors, comms, and automation results in NEEDING fewer crew.

            In the early days of the naval nuclear program, Admiral Rickover did not trust technology to automate anything, and he insisted on manual controls of literally everything. That was fine for the 1950s through the 1980s when transistors ,and solid state electonics were a new thing and of unknown, and lesser, reliability than today’s electronics. But obviously computers and electronics and even AI assisted systems are much better in the 2010s.

            The brand new design nuclear power plant on the Ford class needs only half the number of trained nuclear operators as the old, 1960s design reactor plants on the Nimitz. And these operators are the most highly trained, the most expensive to train, and which take the longest to train (and replace) of anybody in the ship’s complement (excluding the pilots in the air wing).

          • Rocco

            I don’t imply any!! Ship were meant to have a crew!! Not eventually be replaced by autonomous systems which you happen to endorse!!

        • Rocco

          Agreed!! Not to mention that it’s new systems will work as designed!! The Ford is now in Navy control without working bomb elevators & unproven EMAILS in combat!!

        • Chesapeakeguy

          Don’t forget that the Fords are currently useless. The problems with their cats and arrester gear still have not been resolved. There has been talk about possible refits of those systems with the same steam driven equipment they were supposed to replace. We will see how everything works out.

    • Rocco

      Kudos agreed…. However today even a new Nimitz class even with steam cats etc would be about 8 billion. Considering the America class LHA is around 5-6 B

    • Rocco

      Duane!!

  • DaSaint

    Glad to see costs coming down. Hope they can bring them down to $10B eventually.

    Hope that $1B per FFG(X) isn’t deemed too expensive!

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    My gut tells me large carriers are the same as tanks are. Armor is now a death sentence for crews.

    • Oskar

      Yeah, sure….and manned fighters are obsolete…

      • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

        No, I didn’t say that, did I?

        • Oskar

          You’re saying the same thing those old missile proponents were claiming…

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Huge ship, huge target. I remember the Falklands. I am not claiming anything other than I think they are a lot of eggs in one basket. Look what missiles have done to armor warfare?

          • Oskar

            How many carriers have been sunk since 1945?

            What did it take the Japanese to sink one?

            What have missiles done to armoured warfare?

            Desert Storm seemed to have a LOT of MBT’s dominating the battlefield…

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            What have they done to armor? Really? Ever see what a Javelin does to a T-72? This isn’t Desert Storm anymore.

            Armor is a death trap.

          • Oskar

            Oh, they WON THE WAR….

            Answer my questions.

            Quit squirming.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Give it a rest, I don’t squirm, I analyze. That is what I get paid to do. History is my hobby. I take nothing for granted.

          • Oskar

            You’re squirming.

            Answer my questions.

            Trolling is your hobby, clearly.

  • East Bound & Down

    USS Ford: The world’s most expensive LHA!

    • Duane

      In the same sense that the new World Trade Center building is the world’s most expensive cabin.

  • Don1024

    I find it amusing that everyone gets wrapped around the cost of a carrier. Just out of curiosity, does anyone want to know how many Ford carriers the Social Security administration spends every MONTH? It’s more than two and less than ten. Go ahead & guess.
    How about welfare? Want to guess?