Airfields Afloat: The USA’s New Gerald Ford Class Super-Carriers

by Defense Industry Daily staff

Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The FrenchCharles De Gaulle Class external link nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s newVikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers external linkthat participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class external link (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class external link(17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.

CVN-71 Theodore Roosevelt Cutaway

Nimitz Class cutaway
(click to view full)

As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers external link, the CVN-21 program external link aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic external link points out many of the key improvements.

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