CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford
Construction on the CVN-78 began on 11 August 2005, at Northrop Grumman Newport News' shipyards in Virginia with the beveling of a 15-ton metal plate. Advance construction was expected to take an estimated two years before construction could begin on the actual ship itself. The timeframe was expected to allow technicians and engineers the time needed to test and design the ship, and all the new technologies that were to eventually be put into the vessel.
Planned funding was required starting in FY09 to support the CVN 79 integrated design and construction schedule. Funding was required to efficiently and effectively complete design integration efforts, detailed design, and construction planning taking advantage of integrated product and process development to insert transformational technologies while reducing both construction costs and potential costly construction rework. Nuclear Propulsion Equipment GFE funding was required to fund a shipset of reactor plant components for CVN 79. The complexity, size and early shipyard need dates for reactor plant equipment made them among the longest lead items for CVN 79. Hull, Mechanical, & Electrical (HM&E) funding was required for government furnished engineering services support. Basic shipbuilder advance construction funding was required for both procurement of the longest lead non-reactor plant propulsion and electric plant contractor furnished equipment and advance construction efforts necessary to support an efficient CVN 79 construction schedule.
As of March 2007 the CVN-78 program expected to have 6 of 17 current critical technologies fully mature and another 7 approaching maturity by critical design review scheduled for May of that year. Program officials stated that the extended construction and design period allowed further time for development. Fallback technologies existed for 6 of 17 total critical technologies, but their use entailed drawbacks, such as decreased performance and/or an increase in manpower requirements. While the design process appeared on track, weight and stability issues have presented a challenge. In 2006 the Navy decided to delay awarding the contract for construction of the first two ships of the class by 1 year to meet other Navy priorities. The Navy expected to award the CVN 78 construction contract in January 2008.
Only 4 of CVN-78's 17 current critical technologies were fully mature as of a March 2007 Government Accountability Office report: the nuclear propulsion and electrical plant, a new desalination system, the Multi-Function Radar, and a high strength alloy steel. A plasma-arc waste destruction system and the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) were expected to be fully mature and 7 were expected to be approaching maturity prior to critical design review. A total of 9 were expected to be fully mature in time for construction contract award in 2008. The program reported 16 critical technologies at development start, with as many as 22 technologies in 2006. Since a 2006 GAO assessment, the Navy eliminated a technology and redefined another.
Programs other than CVN-21 were developing 6 of the critical technologies: the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), a missile, Multi-Function Radar, Volume Search Radar, an automated weapon information system, and a GPS-based landing system-known as JPALS. Progress in those programs could affect the CVN-21 schedule. Four of the technologies had mature alternate systems as backups. No backup is feasible for the radars without major ship redesign. While the Multi-function Radar demonstrated maturity through at-sea testing, the Volume Search Radar would not achieve maturity until 2014 after operational testing on the future destroyer. Program officials stated that they would most likely install AAG-even if it is not fully mature when a decision to use a backup must be made. CVN 78's optimal build sequence could be impacted, if AAG is not delivered on time.
EMALS was planned replace steam catapults and was expected to demonstrate maturity through land based testing. EMALS will not be tested at sea, but officials believe that this testing is the only alternative designed to approximate an aircraft carrier environment.
The Navy eliminated an integrated inventory system and intended to pursue materials aimed at reducing carrier weight. The materials were ultimately eliminated because the Navy believed that it could already achieve its goals for ship weight and stability. Only high-strength and toughness steel was expected to be used on CVN 78.
Four critical technologies would not be mature until after construction start in 2008. While a selfpropelled weapons loading device was not required until ship delivery in 2015, an armor protection system was needed for installation starting in 2009, the same year it is expected to demonstrate maturity. Risks associated with the 1,100-ton air conditioning plants were considered low since the components were available and used as of March 2007, but units of the requisite size had never been installed on a ship. Finally, the advanced weapons elevators were not expected to reach maturity until after shipboard system testing just prior to delivery.
A design review was planned for May 2007, but program officials stated that the design was regularly reviewed in the GAO report. According to program officials, the ship was meeting its design targets, in part because of a 1 year delay in the construction contract, which resulted in additional time to develop the design.
Meeting the ship's requirements for weight and stability was a challenge. EMALS and AAG have exceeded their allocated weight margins and weight must be compensated elsewhere on the ship. Additional degradation of its weight allowance could occur as the final designs for critical technologies become known.
The Navy concurred with the March 2007 GAO assessment, but emphasized that a lengthy construction period provided additional time to mature technologies. The Navy noted that technology readiness was closely managed through proven design processes, risk assessments, site visits, and contracting methods to ensure adequate maturity. Specific attention was given to requirements, legacy system availability, technology readiness, affordability, schedule, and return on investment. In addition, initial construction efforts aimed at validating new designs, tooling, and construction processes were already under way.
In the report the Navy also stressed that the decision to delay the program in 2006 had not been related to technology maturity, weight, or stability issues.
By a March 2008 GAO assessment, five of 15 current critical technologies were fully mature, including the nuclear propulsion and electric plant. Six technologies were expected to approach maturity, while four others would remain at lower maturity by construction contract award. Since 2007, the Navy had eliminated an armor protection system from CVN 78, but was evaluating use on follow-on ships, and the air conditioning plant and automated weapons information system were no longer considered developmental. Of CVN 21's technologies, the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), the advanced arresting gear, and the dual band radar (composed of the volume search and multifunction radars) present the greatest risk to the ship's cost and schedule. By January 2008, 76 percent of the design was complete. Challenges in technology development had the potential to lead to delays in maintaining the design schedule needed for construction.
EMALS would not be tested at sea, but a production model was scheduled to begin land-based testing in 2009. Difficulties developing the generator and meeting detailed Navy requirements had already led to a 15-month schedule delay. Problems manufacturing the generator delayed testing scheduled to begin by February 2008. The Navy was considering authorizing production of the generators prior to completing initial testing in order to ensure delivery to support CVN 78's construction schedule. As a consequence, production was to begin prior to demonstrating that the generators worked as intended. Timely delivery of EMALS remained at risk in 2008. Problems that occured in testing or production would likely prevent EMALS from being delivered to the shipyard to meet the construction schedule.
The dual band radar was being developed as part of the DDG 1000 program. In 2007 DoD reassessed the multifunction radar's readiness. Since modes critical to CVN 21 had not yet been tested, including electronic protection and air traffic control, the radar could not be considered fully mature. While the multifunction radar had been tested at sea, considerable testing remained for the volume search radar. Due to problems with a critical circuit technology, the volume search radar would not demonstrate the power output needed to meet requirements during upcoming testing. Full power output would not be tested on a complete system until the first production unit in 2010, and the radar would not be fully demonstrated until operational testing on DDG 1000 in 2013. Problems discovered during testing could affect installation on the carrier scheduled to begin in 2012.
The advanced arresting gear completed early verification tests that proved the system's concept and tested components. Integrated testing with simulated and live aircraft was scheduled to begin in 2009. Delays led the Navy to consolidate test events in order to maintain the shipyard delivery date, leaving little time to address any problems prior to production. Late delivery would require the shipbuilder to install the system after the flight deck has been laid, disrupting the optimal build sequence and increasing cost.
Other technologies would not be fully matured by construction contract award, but presented less risk to ship construction according to the GAO. The advanced weapons elevator could not be tested at sea until ship delivery, but was planned to complete full-scale testing in 2008. A shipboard replenishment system was a modification of current technology and full-scale testing concluded in 2008. The shipboard weapons loader was critical for achieving manpower reductions, but would be stored on the flight deck and not required until ship delivery. A GPS-based landing system (JPALS) was still in development, but the carrier would use a backup to land aircraft that were not JPALS-capable. A missile uplink would not be operationally tested until 2013, but CVN 78 could achieve its key performance parameters without this improvement.
The GAO reported that the Navy had generally concurred with their 2008 assessment that concurrent technology development, particularly regarding EMALS, the advanced arresting gear, and the dual-band radar system, presented the highest programmatic risk. They did, however, state that all critical technologies were being managed through established processes to mitigate cost, schedule, and development risk. Additionally, a lengthy construction period allowed technologies to mature and helped ensure technologies did not become obsolete by ship delivery. The Navy noted that the program had maintained key performance parameters through product modeling, which indicated design stability. Production risk was being mitigated by the advanced construction of structural units low in the ship. As of December 2007, 25 percent of the ship's units were under construction.
The Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Aircraft Carriers, Rear Adm. Thomas Moore, announced the stand up of a new program office, 27 July 2012, within PEO Carriers, PMS 379, and the assumption of office by Cmdr. Doug Oglesby. The new program office will manage the planning and procurement of John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and future aircraft carriers of the Gerald R. Ford class. PMS 379 will join existing PEO Carriers programs PMS 312 for in-service carriers and PMS 378 for Future Carriers. PMS 378 retains responsibility for the construction and delivery of Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
By 2013, lead ship procurement costs had grown by over 17 percent, with ship construction now approximately 51 percent complete. At present, six of the currently planned technologies are mature, with the rest approaching maturity, and the ship's 3D product model is complete. However, maintaining design stability depends on technologies arriving at the ship in configurations consistent with the current design. Construction to date has been impeded by unforeseen welding complications, material shortages, and lagging equipment deliveries.
According to the Navy, 6 of CVN 78's 13 critical technologies are mature, and the remaining 7 are approaching maturity. Delays developing and producing the dual band radar (DBR) and advanced arresting gear (AAG) have driven inefficient, out of sequence construction work and caused the Navy to defer some key tests until after installation. The Navy's decision to remove DBR's volume search radar (VSR) component from the DDG 1000 destroyer shifted responsibility for maturing DBR to CVN 78, and the resulting restart of testing has been slow. Further, because a fully configured, production unit VSR is unavailable, the Navy is using a less robust, lower powered prototype to complete testing. At present, the first test of a fully configured, integrated DBR will be aboard CVN 78 after ship delivery—a strategy that introduces risks.
Malfunctions in the water twisters, components used to absorb energy created when arresting aircraft, have slowed the development of AAG. To support construction, the Navy plans to produce and install AAG aboard CVN 78 prior to completing system development, which may risk retrofits late in construction. The electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) has successfully launched a wide range of aircraft during land based testing using a single launcher and four motor generators. The shipboard system will employ a more complex configuration of four launchers and 12 generators sharing a power interface. Both EMALS and AAG face reliability challenges, and neither system is expected to attain minimum required reliability until more than 10 years after CVN 78 delivery.
CVN 78 completed its 3D product model in November 2009—over a year after the construction contract award. At contract award, 76 percent of the model was complete and the shipbuilder had already begun construction of at least 25 percent of structural units under a previous construction preparation contract. While the model is now considered functionally complete, maintaining design stability depends on technologies fitting within the space, weight, cooling, and power reservations allotted them. Shipboard testing may reveal a need for design changes. In addition, as construction progresses, the shipbuilder is discovering "first-of-class" type design changes, which it will use to update the model prior to CVN 79 construction.
The catapult system on the United States Navy’s newest aircraft carrier cause too much wear to the top warplanes if the aircraft are carrying fuel tanks needed to extend their flight range, prohibiting the Navy from launching the jets at all. Until it is corrected, the deficiency would "preclude the Navy from conducting normal operations" on the USS Gerald R. Ford, Air Force Maj. Eric Badger, spokesman for the Pentagon's testing office, said 26 March 2015.
In addition to troubles with the catapult system, there are also flaws in the ship's landing system. Even more needed improvements are being delayed until after the ship is delivered, which must happen by March 2016 to stay within a $12.9 billion cap on construction costs imposed by Congress.
The three-vessel Ford class is the first major new design for a carrier since the 1960's-era Nimitz class and is projected to cost $40 billion. The Navy had planned to award construction contracts for CVN 79 by September 2013 and for CVN 80 by the end of 2017. An 08 April 2015 Pentagon meeting reviewed awarding a potential $4 billion construction contract to Huntington Ingalls for the next carrier, the John F. Kennedy.
On 05 June 2015 Huntington Ingalls Inc., Newport News, Virginia, was awarded a $3,352,611,760 fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract for all remaining detail design and construction (DD&C) efforts for aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). This new contract award, along with simultaneously awarded modification N00024-09-C-2116, will provide all design and construction services and material for the construction of CVN 79, including necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; detail design and procurement of material; construction; life cycle support; logistics data and other data to support the DD&C of CVN 79.
Work will be performed in Newport News, Virginia, and is expected to be complete by June 2022. Fiscal 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) and fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation funding in the amount of $188,031,383 will be obligated at time of award and funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 - only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (N00024-15-C-2114).
On 05 June 2015 Huntington Ingalls Inc., Newport News, Virginia, was awarded a $941,175,219 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-2116) for labor to complete aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) component and steel fabrication, selected construction unit assemblies, and all remaining direct material. This contract modification, along with simultaneously awarded new contract N00024-15-C-2114, will provide all design and construction services and material for the construction of CVN 79, including necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; detail design and procurement of material; construction; life cycle support; logistics data and other data to support the detail design and construction of CVN 79.
Work will be performed in Newport News, Virginia, and is expected to be complete by June 2022. Fiscal 2015 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funding in the amount of $350,843,727 will be obligated at the time of award and funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 - only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.
After spending $12.9 billion to construct the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Pentagon has serious concerns about the aircraft carrier’s combat readiness. According to an internal US Defense Department memo obtained by Bloomberg in July 2016, the USS Gerald R Ford, may have trouble with its runway systems, as well as with its defense capabilities and munitions movement. "These four systems affect major areas of flight operations," Michael Gilmore, DoD director of operational test and evaluation, wrote to Frank Kendall and Sean Stackley, weapons buyers for the Pentagon and the Navy. "Unless these issues are resolved, which would likely require redesigning, they will significantly limit the CVN-78’s ability to conduct combat operations," he wrote.
Of particular concern is the ship’s arresting gear, used to catch landing aircraft, which is "unlikely to support high-intensity flight operations" and "is well below expectations and well below what is needed to succeed in combat." Tests showed that the arresting gear could only be used 25 times consecutively before failing. The ship’s launch system is better, but far from ideal. While the system should be able to perform 4,166 takeoffs before critical failures, tests show the USS Gerald Ford’s can only conduct 400 before requiring significant maintenance. "Based on current reliability estimates, the CVN-78 is unlikely to conduct high-intensity flight operations at the outset of war," Gilmore wrote.
The warship’s radar systems are also a concern. The effectiveness of the dual-band radar, used for both self-defense and air-traffic control, "is unknown," according to Gilmore. The ship had already seen a number of delays. Christened in 2013, it was originally scheduled to be delivered to the US Navy in September 2014. The Navy announced that delivery wouldn’t be made until the end of 2016. "During the ongoing testing of developmental systems, first-of-class issues are continue to be resolved," according to a statement given to Bloomberg. "The current estimated delivery date is in November 2016. If additional issues arise during the remaining shipboard testing, that date may need to be revised."
"With the benefit of hindsight, it was clearly premature to include so many unproven technologies [on the vessel]," Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, wrote in a memo, according to the Japan Times in Septembe 2016. But new revelations show that the power problems may prevent the Ford from even leaving port. An electrical explosion occurred in the ship’s second main turbine generator (MTG) in June. While US military officials insist there was no fire, the incident was enough to fling debris into the turbine. One month later, a similar explosion occurred on the first MTG.
Pentagon sources speaking to Defense News claim that the cause has been traced to faulty voltage regulators. Repairs are expected to cost at least $37 million. This is the latest in a series of setbacks that has forced a delay in delivery of the USS Ford. "The current estimated delivery date is in November 2016," a spokesman for the Navy, Capt. Thurraya S. Kent, told Military.com in July. "If additional issues arise during the remaining shipboard testing, that date may need to be revised." Earlier problems involved the ship’s runway capabilities, munitions movement, and defense capabilities.
US Navy F-35Cs damage runways. "Unless these issues are resolved, which would likely require redesigning, they will significantly limit the CVN-78’s ability to conduct combat operations," Michael Gilmore, DoD director of operational test and evaluation, wrote in a memo from July. The repeated delays have angered US lawmakers, including Arizona Senator John McCain. "The advanced arresting gear cannot recover airplanes. Advanced weapons elevators cannot lift munitions. The dual-band radar cannot integrate two radar bands," McCain said in a statement. "Even if everything goes according to the Navy’s plan, CVN-78 will be delivered with multiple systems unproven."
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