Despite not being too far off from the ten Nimitz class carriers already employed by the Navy in terms of size, the USS Gerald R. Ford is a completely new design; America’s first in forty years.  All of the changes are intended to improve the standard of living for those on board, enhance the carrier’s combat capabilities, and incorporate automation to reduce the overall personnel requirement to man the ship.

“One primary difference is the crew composition,” said the ship’s executive officer, Capt. Brent Gaut. “We’ve worked a great deal to automize a lot of what we do.”

The USS Gerald  R. Ford still carries an immense crew, 2,600 sailors to be exact, but according to Gaut, that still marks a reduction of 600 sailors from the crew compliment of the Nimitz class ships.  By reducing the number of sailors the ship needs to function, the Ford promises to cost significantly less to operate over the span of its projected service life of 50 years.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway (Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

According to the Navy, changes like these promise to reduce operating costs of the carriers by nearly $4 billion each over their Nimitz class predecessors (once they’ve worked all the issues out).  The increased automation and improved ship design will also allow the carrier to launch a claimed 33% more aircraft in the same amount of time than older ships, allowing it to more effectively carry out combat operations. A great deal of that increase is credited to the ship’s adoption of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), rather than the steam driven catapults employed by its predecessors.

“The biggest challenge is to test the systems … in theory they are incredible, but we need to test them and make sure they do what they are supposed to do, which is allow us to put the ship in harm’s way and fight the fight,” said Gaut.

So how do you test such a catapult? Well, at least sometimes, you use it to throw trucks into the ocean.


Feature image courtesy of YouTube