To say that the USS Nimitz class of aircraft carriers (10 in all), along with the firepower of their support ships are awesome would be an understatement. The Nimitz class aircraft carriers are the largest warships in the world, each designed for 50 year service life with one midlife refueling, which is done at Newport News, Va and all have completed the refueling process.
The Navy is currently bringing on a new class of carriers that will practically dwarf the Eisenhower and Nimitz class of ships.
This is the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier class.
Although this class will also have a 50 year life cycle as well, there is an estimated savings of over $4 billion. Designated with hull number (serial identification number given to a ship), CVN 78 for the first ship, it will have 700 less crew, but have the ability to work as efficiently as the CVN 68 Nimitz class.
Some of the new technologies and advancements for the CVN 78 class are Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) and Dual Band Radar (DBR). In addition, a new Bechtel AIB reactor will be in place.
Few know that some military ships still rely on steam power in some of its sections. This includes the CVN 68 class, which uses steam-powered catapults to launch their aircraft; however, the Gerald Ford class is all electric, from top to bottom, providing greater efficiency and less maintenance requirements and improving corrosion control. Specifically, using electricity to catapult the aircraft surpases a current weight problem with the current Nimitz class. By using electromagnetic induction to catapult the planes, more power is provided as well as the unit itself is reduced in size.
Two reactors will be installed on each Ford-class carrier, with each A1B reactor capable of producing 300 MW of electricity, compared to the Nimitz-class reactor which produces only 100 MW.
Self-Defense systems have been improved. The Ford class, as well as the new Zumwalt class destroyers use the electronically scanned array (AESA) system. Efficiency in technology allows the radar antenna system to be reduced from six or ten antennas to a single six-faced radar antenna.
Raytheon has been one of the primary contractors for this, as well developing the Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM), which is also onboard the ships and which is a defensive anti missile system that can intercept anti-ship missiles.
The bottom line is that the Gerald Ford class will have improved warfighting capability over the Nimitz class.
|Gerald R. Ford class General Characteristics|
|Builder: Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va.|
|Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts.|
|Length: 1,092 feet|
|Beam: 134 feet, Flight Deck Width: 256 feet.|
|Displacement: approximately 100,000 long tons full load.|
|Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)|
|Crew: 4,539 (ship, air wing and staff).|
|Armament: Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling Airframe Missile, CIWS.|
|PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)|
|PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79)|