The US Navy’s newest Ford-class aircraft carriers to be blocked by US Congress, unless they can deploy F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.
The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee included in its Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act mark language a prohibition for the Navy to accept delivery of its next Ford-class carrier, John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), unless the carrier can deploy with F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters, USNI cited a committee staffer on June 3rd.
The text itself is the following:
“Ford Class Aircraft Carrier Support for F-35C Aircraft
This section would require the Secretary of the Navy to ensure that the aircraft carrier to be designated CVN-79 is capable of deploying with the F-35 prior to accepting delivery.”
CVN-79 is the second Ford-class aircraft carrier expected to be delivered by the end of 2019, the USS John F. Kennedy.
This is further made difficult by the subcommittee also requiring costs to be reduced on constructing the warship and the CVN-80 USS Enterprise, too, which would be the same class.
The committee staff member said that the limitations on spending are actually forcing the Navy to accept delivery on unfinished carriers and intending to pay more money at a later time to add critical capabilities.
“CVN-79 will not be able to deploy with F-35s when it’s delivered to the Navy as a direct result of that cost cap. So when that cost cap was imposed, the Navy traded that capability off and chose to build that back in on the back end,” the committee staffer said. “That’s unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”
Making the carriers able to deploy with F-35s was just one example of work deferred until after delivery.
Some capabilities are installed during post-shakedown availability (PSA), that is also a reason why the Ford-class carriers are far behind schedule.
Other capabilities are delayed until regularly scheduled maintenance availabilities even later in the ship’s life.
According to the Drive, the most likely issue with the USS John F. Kennedy are the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).
“These electrically-powered and electronically-controlled systems are supposed to give the Ford-class more control over the finer aspects of the launch and recovery process. The Navy claims this will improve sortie generation rates, reduce wear and tear on aircraft, and increase reliability and safety across the board.”
Earlier, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts said that the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) would not have all of its advanced weapons elevators working when the ship leaves its PSA in October.
“We are working right now with the fleet on what elevators do we need to have complete so they can exercise all the function in October, and for any of that work that isn’t done, how we’re going to feather that work in over time,” Geurts said.
According to the subcommittee staff member, all the delays in work to satisfy the spending caps are pointless, since the cost would actually increase dramatically after many of the capabilities are added after the ship is commissioned.
The committee recommends removing the spending caps, and that is the case with the CVN-80 and CVN-81, which are with a fixed-price contract.
The cost cap for USS Gerald R. Ford was adjusted a few times but ended up being $12.8 billion. USS John F. Kennedy’s cost cap is $11 billion.
With the USS Gerald R. Ford, two years after the Navy received the ship, only a pair of its 11 weapons elevators are working. It’s unclear when they all might get certified for regular use.
The Navy is now planning to build a land-based test facility for the elevators, but that won’t become operational until sometime in 2020.
The elevators are absolutely critical to the ship’s ability to fight. In January 2019, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer had said US President Donald Trump should fire him if the elevator issue didn’t get resolved by the end of the summer.
These aren’t even all of the USS Geralrd R. Ford’s issues, and the US Congress’ concerns related to the USS John F. Kennedy being similarly limited are reasonable.
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