Gerald R. Ford class

Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the first new aircraft carrier design in 40 years, replacing the Nimitz-class of carriers.

The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time. The first-of-class ship – the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in 40 years – will spend several days conducting builder's sea trials, a comprehensive test of many of the ship's key systems and technologies (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/Released)
The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time. The first-of-class ship – the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in 40 years – will spend several days conducting builder’s sea trials, a comprehensive test of many of the ship’s key systems and technologies (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/Released)

The new design brings many performance improvements, including:

  • 25 percent increase in SGR (Sortie Generation Rate);
  • 5 times electrical generation capacity over the Nimitz-class;
  • Manpower reduction of 500 billets.
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was moved Sunday, November 17, 2013, to Newport News Shipbuilding's Pier 3, where it will undergo additional outfitting and testing for the next 28 months. Photo by Chris Oxley
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was moved Sunday, November 17, 2013, to Newport News Shipbuilding’s Pier 3, where it will undergo additional outfitting and testing for the next 28 months. Photo by Chris Oxley

The new aircraft carrier class was redesigned from the keel to the mast of the island house. Among the improvements:

  • New A1B reactor and propulsion plants;
  • EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System), an improvement over steam catapult system;
  • New island: The island is shorter in length, but stands 20 feet/6 m taller than previous aircraft carriers’ islands. It is positioned 140 feet/43 m further aft and 3 feet/0.9 m further outboard than its predecessors;
  • All electric ship;
  • Major space rearrangement;
  • Flight deck extensions;
  • AAG (Advanced Arresting Gear).

Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the Navy’s first aircraft carrier to be completely designed using a 3-dimensional product model.

A design rendering of the nuclear-powered, aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78
A design rendering of the nuclear-powered, aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78

The CVN-78 is designed to operate effectively with nearly 700 fewer crew members than a CVN-68-class ship. Improvements in the ship design will allow the embarked air wing to operate with approximately 400 fewer personnel. New technologies and ship design features are expected to reduce watch standing and maintenance workload for the crew. The Gerald R. Ford class is designed to maximize the striking power of the embarked carrier air wing. The ship’s systems and configuration are optimized to maximize the SGR of attached strike aircraft, resulting in a 25 percent increase in SGR over the Nimitz class.

 

Flight deck changes

Flight deck: The island is smaller and moved farther aft than on Nimitz class so there is more area for airplane maintenance and flight deck operations will be faster and safer due to better space utilization.

The carrier has a 5‐acre/20,234 m2 flight deck
The carrier has a 5‐acre flight deck

Weapons Elevator: Elevators use moving electromagnetic fields instead of cabling, which allows elevator shaft to use horizontal doors to close off magazines. This reduces manning and maintenance costs.

Flexible Infrastructure: Flexible infrastructure architecture that allows spaces to be adaptable to rapid changes without the use of «hot work». It eases compartment reconfiguration to support changing missions, maximizes time for technology development prior to equipment installation, and eliminates cost and schedule impacts associated with the traditional conflicts from re-work.

Advanced Arresting Gear: Recovers current and future aircraft, is lighter than the legacy system, software controls, reduce manning.

 

New technologies

Among the new technologies in the Ford-class are:

The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford CVN-78, is represented here in a combination model and live shot digital photo illustration
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford CVN-78, is represented here in a combination model and live shot digital photo illustration
  • DBR (Dual Band Radar): Enables a smaller island structure on the deck of the carrier, facilitating the ship’s increased sortie generation rate;
  • Multifunction radar and volume search radar: integrates two radars operating on different frequency bands;
  • Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System: Replaces steam catapult. Uses electrically generated, moving magnetic field to propel aircraft to launch speed.
Huntington Ingalls Industries delivered the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) to the U.S. Navy on May 31, 2017 (Photo by Matt Hildreth/HII)
Huntington Ingalls Industries delivered the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) to the U.S. Navy on May 31, 2017 (Photo by Matt Hildreth/HII)

 

Improved efficiency

With the Ford-class, the Navy has made capital investments to reduce cost and maintenance over the carrier’s life span – that is $4 billion in total ownership cost savings over the 50-year life of the ship. The improved design of the carrier allows for more efficient operations and requires fewer sailors to man. Among the efficiencies are:

A design rendering of the nuclear-powered, aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78
A design rendering of the nuclear-powered, aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78
  • Steam to electric transition: No catapult steam, no service steam and no steam turbine driven auxiliaries.
  • Fewer overall components: A third to a half as many valves, elimination of 70 sea chests, three vs. four aircraft elevators, two vs. three hangar bays.
  • Extended dry-docking interval: The Ford-class is designed for 12-year intervals.
  • Improved shipwide air conditioning: Provides lower moisture and dirt levels. 9,900 tons of air conditioning reduces maintenance caused by humidity and reduces required manning in hot spaces.
  • LED Battle Lanterns: The LED light source will be life of ship and the lower power demand will greatly extend lanterns run time per battery. In the Nimitz class, the current bulb has a 100-hour life.
  • Electric Water Heaters: Moving away from steam heating for hot potable water will lower the maintenance load and will reduce ships weight by eliminating a piping network that covered the entire ship.
  • Better shipboard lighting: High efficiency fluorescent T-8 lighting will be utilized throughout Ford-class ships. About 44,000 high‐efficiency fluorescent T‐8 light bulbs produce more light than the legacy T-12 with reduced energy consumption – each bulb will last almost twice as long as the previous lighting system.
A computer animated image of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) at sea
A computer animated image of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) at sea

Weapons Elevators: Elevators use moving electromagnetic fields instead of cabling, which allows elevator shaft to use horizontal doors to close off magazines. This reduces manning and maintenance costs.

Cargo Elevators: Elevators will replace cargo conveyers allowing faster transport of palletized materials while eliminating the wasted time of unloading pallets and moving cans vice pallets of materials throughout the ship. Elevators are located so material is delivered directly to point of use locations like the Galley from the storage areas so cross ship transport is eliminated.

A conceptual rendering of CVN-78, the first of a new generation carrier design, CVN XXI, for the US Navy
A conceptual rendering of CVN-78, the first of a new generation carrier design, CVN XXI, for the US Navy

 

Facts:

  • 4,000,000 lbs/1,814,400 kg of weld metal consumed;
  • 10,000,000 feet/3,048,000 m of installed electrical cable;
  • 4,000,000 feet/1,219,200 m of installed fiber optic cable;
  • 200,000 gallons of Haze Gray paint cover CVN-78;
  • The carrier has a 5‐acre/20,234 m2 flight deck;
  • Ford produces 400,000 gallons/1,514,200 liters of fresh water per day;
  • The ship produces 15,000 meals a day.
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) floats in the James River after being launched from dry dock at Newport News Shipbuilding, 11/17/2013
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) floats in the James River after being launched from dry dock at Newport News Shipbuilding, 11/17/2013

Gerald R. Ford has been under construction in Dry Dock 12 since November 2009 and was moved about one mile south to the shipyard’s Pier 3 with the assistance of six tugboats on November 19, 2013. The ship will be moored at Pier 3 to complete outfitting and testing for the next 28 months. Habitability spaces, such as berthing and mess areas, will be completed, and distributive, mechanical and combat systems, such as catapults and radar arrays, will be tested. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Navy in 2016.

John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), the second carrier in the new Ford-class, is already in early stages of construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, with the first cut of steel commemorated in 2011.

A unit for the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) rests on the assembly platen at Newport News Shipbuilding 11/25/2013
A unit for the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) rests on the assembly platen at Newport News Shipbuilding 11/25/2013

 

General Characteristics

Builder Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
Propulsion 2 A1B(*) nuclear reactors, 4 shafts
Length 1,092 feet/333 m
Beam 134 feet/41 m
Flight Deck Width 256 feet/78 m
Flight Deck Square 217,796 feet2/20,234 m2
Displacement approximately 100,000 long tons full load
Speed 30+ knots/34.5+ mph/55.5+ km/h
Crew 4,539 (ship, air wing and staff)
Armament ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System)
Aircraft 75+

(*) – Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. serves the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program

Ships

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) 11-13-2009 11-09-2013
USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) 08-22-2015
USS Enterprise (CVN-80)

 

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