With the results of the recent U.S. presidential election shaking up the world, tensions are as high as ever. Numerous mechanical breakdowns in several of the U.S. Navy’s newest ships over the past few months haven’t helped either, resulting in ballooning maintenance and construction costs, not to mention postponed launch and christening dates. In order to reassure the rest of the world of the United States’ stability despite the chaos of the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. military must continue to stay strong, and no other force has a more global presence than the U.S. Navy.
The U.S. Navy is ever expanding and improving in terms of numbers, technology, and firepower. Perhaps the most significant factor of the U.S. Navy’s dominance throughout the world’s oceans is the presence of extremely sophisticated and innovative aircraft carriers currently in operation. However, ever since the Cold War, the dominating aircraft carriers are nuclear-powered Nimitz-class supercarriers, albeit the largest capital ships in the world. With the White House seeking to continuously assert the presence of its fleets throughout the world, the U.S. Navy had to have come up with a new class of aircraft carrier sooner or later, and now we have it: the Gerald R. Ford class supercarrier.
Named after the 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, the Ford-class supercarriers follow the current trend of the U.S. Navy’s emphasis on smaller yet more efficient technology in an effort to reduce operation costs but increase performance yield tenfold.
The new Bechtel A1B nuclear reactor was developed to replace the Nimitz-class A4W nuclear reactor. The design of the previous A4W reactor is limited in terms of maximum efficiency due to the extremely smaller amount of energy required by technology aboard the Nimitz-class carriers at the time, and the Bechtel A1B reactor is far more powerful than the A4W reactor, despite its smaller size, simpler design, and fewer crew requirements.
With two of these reactors installed on each Ford-class carrier, each capable of producing 300 MW (triple the 100 MW of the Nimitz-class A4W reactor), the Ford-class carrier will have no problem powering its onboard technology and then some. The modernization of the Bechtel A1B reactor led to lower maintenance, construction, manpower, and spatial requirements, and the resulting limits of the A4W reactor from revolutionized technological advances, requiring more energy, led to the A1B reactor’s excess energy production to ensure the application of unexpected technology to the Ford-class carriers.
Many majour structural changes and improvements were implemented to the Ford-class carriers as well. First and foremost, in order to improve the efficiency of aircraft launch times – critical to the performance of an aircraft carrier – the deck space for rearm and refuel stations was expanded, reducing the frequency that an aircraft will be relocated after landing and before relaunch. This lessens the number of crew required to accomplish these tasks, further reducing the overall size of the ship’s crew.
With the size of the Ford-class carrier’s crew diminished significantly due to these structural changes and automation of technology, the new aircraft carriers require less crew accommodations, and even wifi-enabled lounges are located here and there! Wifi for the win!
Furthermore, the path of weapons from storage to the aircraft has been simplified; munitions will no longer cross into paths of aircraft movement, reducing traffic throughout the ship and decreasing the time to rearm aircraft to mere minutes.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers utilize Cold War-era steam-powered catapults for launching aircraft, and while they are extremely reliable, steam-powered catapults are also extremely inefficient and hard to control, limiting Nimitz-class steam-powered catapults to launching heavy aircraft; 21st-century UAVs are far too light and delicate to launch from these antique catapults, and so the Ford-class carriers utilize Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is far easier to control and more efficient. With EMALS, the Ford-class carriers can launch both heavy and light aircraft, which ensures an increased versatility in the performance of these 21st-century supercarriers.
With a far smaller crew than the Nimitz-class supercarrier, EMALS, new A1B reactors, and the ability to easily carry and launch 90 heavy and light aircraft, the revolutionary Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers will further ensure the U.S. Navy’s survival and dominance in the world’s oceans for decades to come.
– Daniel Park (’17)
Featured Image: The Ford Class