USS Gerald R. Ford – US Navy’s new aircraft carrier

USS Gerald R. Ford is the latest US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and also the first Ford-class carrier – the successor of the powerful Nimitz class: currently the main striking force of the US Navy. USS Gerald R. Ford is expected to enter the service in early 2017, replacing the USS Enterprise, which was already withdrawn from service. Let’s look at what equipment will be on the ship and what characterizes the most expensive warship in the world.

Although the Ford is only about 4 meters longer than the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers (337 meters versus 332.8 meters), it provides a better rate of aircraft softies, more storage space and needs less Navy crewmen on the warship. The deck area is up to 5 acres and the ship weighs 100 000 tons – as much as 400 Statues of Liberty. Despite all of its size and weight, the Ford is invisible to radars. The maximum speed of the ship is about 35 miles per hour (30 knots) and has an unlimited range.

CVN-78 under construction at the Newport News yard, in Virginia
Source: US Navy, photo: Joshua J. Wahl

It is the most expensive warship in history as it already cost approx. $ 13 billion [in November 2016], and the estimated cost of three aircraft of this class is $ 43 billion. The aircraft was built by about 5,000 people, and holds about 4460 personnel (4,000 sailors and officers).

The USS Gerald R. Ford is powered by two 300-megawatt nuclear reactors with a capacity 3x greater than the Nimitz-class ships. However, the new aircraft consumes only half the power, enabling her to use the reserve on the use of new technologies (such as laser guns) which will be supplied by the United States Navy in the future.

CVN-78 USS Gerald. R. Ford Aircraft Carrier
Photo: US Navy

The Gerald R. Ford may hold 90 aircraft, including: Boeing F / A-18E / F Super Hornet and its variation the EA-18G Growler, a transport Grumman C-2 Greyhound, early warning aircraft Grumman E-2 Hawkeye and, of course, the new F-35 Lightning II fighter. Also inside the aircraft are drones and Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters.

Launching the aircraft from the deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford is not helped by conventional steam catapults, but by a modern electromagnetic catapult called EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) which are lighter, require less space and are 25% faster than steam catapults. Unfortunately, in 2013, a technical issue with the EMALS had been discovered which contributed to the delay of the warship’s service date.

In addition, the Ford will also be equipped with a support system for landing called AAG (AAG – Advanced Arresting Gear), which is also based on electromagnetic technology and is able to bring airplanes landing at 104 meters on the warship’s deck to a complete halt in just 3 seconds.

Below: USS Gerald. R. Ford firing a 4-ton truck using EMALS. Source:

The aircraft carrier is equipped with a system that gives it the ability to defend herself in a critical situation. An example of this may be a system called ESSM, which is able to defend the ship against fast and turning rockets or the water-air RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) rockets to destroy enemy combat aircrafts. The USS Gerald R. Ford is also equipped with some other anti-aircraft weapons, including the famous Phalanx CIWS.

The construction of a second aircraft carrier-class nuclear-powered Ford – USS John F. Kennedy has started in August 2015, and the warship is to be incorporated into service in 2020.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) departs the shipyard: [ April 8. 2017]


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