A Diagram of the USS Gerald Ford Aircraft Carrier

Learn About Military Aircraft Carriers

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier
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One of the newer aircraft carriers is the Gerald R. Ford class, the first one to be named the USS Gerald R. Ford. The USS Gerald Ford is being built by Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding.The Navy plans to build 10 Gerald Ford class carriers, each with a 50-year life span.

The second Gerald Ford class carrier is named the USS John F. Kennedy and construction started in 2011.

This class of aircraft carriers will replace the Nimitz class USS Enterprise carrier. Ordered in 2008, the USS Gerald Ford was scheduled for commissioning in 2017. Another carrier was scheduled to be completed in 2023. 

A More Automated Aircraft Carrier

The Gerald Ford-class carriers will have advanced aircraft arresting gear and be highly automated to reduce manpower requirements. The aircraft arresting gear (AAG) is built by General Atomics. Prior carriers used steam launchers to launch aircraft but the Gerald Ford will use the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) built by General Atomics.

The carrier is nuclear powered with two reactors. The latest in stealth technology will be employed to reduce the ships radar signature. The Raytheon enhanced weapon handling and integrated warfare control systems will further improve ship operation. Dual Band Radar (DBR) will improve the ships ability to control aircraft and increase the number of sorties that can be made by 25 percent.

The control island has been completely redesigned to enhance operations and be smaller.

Aircraft carried by the carrier can include F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and F-35C Lightning II. Other aircraft on board include:

  • EF-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft
  • E-2D Hawkeye for conducting battle management command and control
  • MH-60R Seahawk helicopter for antisubmarine and anti-surface warfare duties
  • MH-60S Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

Current carriers use steam power throughout the ship but the Ford class has replaced all the steam lines with electric power. Weapons elevators on the carriers use electromagnetic hoists instead of wire rope to reduce maintenance costs. Hydraulics have been eliminated and replaced by electric actuators. Weapons elevators are built by Federal Equipment Company.

Crew Amenities

The new carriers will have enhanced quality of life for the crew. There are two galleys on the ship plus one for the Strike Group Commander and one for the Ship’s Commanding Officer. The ship will have improved air conditioning, better work spaces, sleeping and sanitary facilities.

It is estimated that the operating cost of the new carriers will be $5 billion less over the ships life than the current Nimitz carriers. Parts of the ship are designed to be flexible and allow for future installation of speakers, lights, controls, and monitors. Ventilation and cabling are run under the decks to allow for easy reconfiguration.

Weapons On Board

  • Evolved Sea Sparrow missile
  • Rolling Airframe Missile
  • Phalanx CIWS
  • Carries 75 aircraft.

    Specifications

    • Length = 1,092 feet
    • Beam = 134 feet
    • Flight deck = 256 feet
    • Draft = 39 feet
    • Displacement = 100,000 tons
    • Power generation from two nuclear reactors designed by Bettis Laboratory
    • Four shafts for propulsion (propulsion units built by General Electric and turbine generators are built by Northrop Grumman Marine Systems).
    • Crew size = 4,660 crew including ship staff and air wing personnel, 800 less than current carriers
    • Maximum speed = 30 knots
    • Range is unlimited since nuclear reactors can power the ship for many years
    • Approximate cost = $11.5 billion each

    To sum up, the next-generation aircraft carrier is the Gerald R. Ford class. It will carry superior firepower through over 75 aircraft, unlimited range using the nuclear reactors, lower manpower, and operating costs. The new design will increase the number of missions that the aircraft can complete making the carrier even more of a force.