The US Navy accepted delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford on May 31st. Ford class super-carriers are being built to replace some of the United States Navy’s existing Nimitz-class carriers from 2017. Nimitz class carriers have been one of the most important assets of the US armed forces, and have enabled power projection far off from the US homeland. The Nimitz design has accommodated many new technologies over the decades, but its ability to accept the most recent technical advances is limited.

Major limitations include limited electrical power generation. The ships of Ford class are expected to be in service with the US Navy till 2065. The first ship of this class is USS Gerald R. Ford. Like all the Nimitz class carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford is also build in Newport News Shipbuilding. It costs around $billion. In this video we will look into the 5 definitive reasons, why Russia and China should fear it ? Nimitz-class carriers got planes moving for takeoff using steam-actuated catapults.

The system required a lot of steam piping, a large condensate return, and tons of fresh water. They tend to have a lot of maintenance issues. Plus, with steam-actuation, the majority of the force is being transferred to the airplane at the beginning of the stroke—in a jolt. This puts stress on an airframe, and thus reduces lifespan of the multi-million dollar plans. Ford class uses Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). The system uses linear induction motor with an electric current to generate a magnetic feild. That field then propels a carriage down a track. Since the power delivery is linear, it negates the deficiencies of steam catapult. The hydraulic arresting system is installed in Nimitz class. Hydraulic arresting system is designed for traditional carrier based aircrafts. Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) is capable of working with all current and projected future carrier-based aircraft, from the lightest unmanned aerial vehicles to the heaviest manned fighters and are more efficient. It is to be noted here that Russia and China, are still using using ski jump, which are generation behind steam-actuated catapults of Nimitz class, and two generation behind EMALS of Ford class.

Also no Russian or Chinese carrier is expected to field AAG in near future, limiting their ability to field futuristic Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV). Ford class has newly designed reactors. 2 Bechtel A1B nuclear reactors are installed on USS Gerald R. Ford. Each one these are capable of producing 300 MW of electricity, triple the 100 MW of each Nimitz-class. The huge power supply provides for the legroom, required for future expansions like inducting Lasers and Rail Guns. Also, compared to the Nimitz-class reactor, the Ford reactor have about half as many valves, piping, major pumps, condensers, and generators which reduced maintenance cost and lower space requirements.

Being nuclear powered, they practically have unlimited range and need refueling once in about 20 years. It must be noted that, neither Russia nor China currently has any nuclear powered carrier, and may require at least a decade before they will have one. The technological gap in this regard is huge. USS Gerald R. Ford has an integrated Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) search and tracking radar system. The dual-band radar (DBR) utilizes a multi tier, dual-band tracker, which consists of a local X band tracker, a local S band tracker, and a central tracker. The central tracker merges the two signals to provide a comprehensive situational awareness. The X band tracker is optimized for low latency to support its mission of providing defense against fast, low-flying missiles, while the S band tracker is optimized for large area coverage. This new system has no moving parts, therefore minimizes maintenance & manning requirements. Also, replacing 6 to10 radar antennas with a single 6-faced radar increases the deck spaced. Russia or China doesn’t have anything close to being as sophisticated as this radar. USS Gerald R. Ford implements high levels of automation, which gives it, increased capability with reduced crew.

Automation has been implemented wherever possible. Ford-class carrier has 25% less crew compared to Nimitz class. This will result in the vessel being much more efficient, and also reduce faults due to human error. The Ford class also has a newly designed deck, which provides more space for flight operations. It has 3 aircraft elevators instead of 4 in Nimitz. These 3 are much more advanced than the 4 in Nimitz. The result of Automation & superior elevators is impressive. Ford class is capable of generating 30 % more sorties (flight missions) per day than Nimitz‐class. The carrier carries 75+ aircrafts, a 30% increase results in massive gains, since the offensive as well as defensive capabilities of the carrier gets a major lift.

Also, eliminating 1 of the elevators further increased the ship’s capabilities by leaving room for other things like having dedicated helicopter-landing pad. Initially the Ford class will have 2 squadrons of 10 to 12 F-35C Joint Strike Fighters, 2 squadrons of 10 to 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 5 EA-18G Growler electronic attack jets, 4 E-2D Hawkeye airborne early-warning and control aircraft, and 2 C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) planes. It will carry 8 MH-60S Seahawk helicopters as well. But the Ford class carriers have also been envisaged to be future proof. Keeping this in view, special attention has been given to increase deck space and power. These two factors come together to enable Ford class to accommodate two game changing technologies in coming days: 1. Lasers: Recently the US Navy has tested a $40 million, 30-kilowatt laser mounted on the deck of the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. Unlike missiles, lasers travel at the speed of light, so they hit their target almost instantaneously.

Not only can they take out a swarm of deadly drones, they can act as a missile defense system. 2. Rail Gun: The US Navy recently test fired a railgun. Railguns use electromagnetic energy to fire projectiles at 7 to 9 times the speed of sound. There is no way to defend against these shots. Russia & China are far off from incorporating this technology in their vessels. .

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