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CVX Next Generation Aircraft Carrier

For CV(X) Next Generation Aircraft Carrier purposes, in terms of aircraft spots, large was considered a ship carrying approximately 80 aircraft, medium a ship capable of carrying approximately 60 aircraft, and small is a ship capable of carrying approximately 40 aircraft. A medium size conventional carrier would be about 3/4 the size of a Nimitz class carrier, carrying about 40-60 catapoult launched planes, with a crew of 1,000-2,000. The vessel would cost about half the cost of a Nimitz class carrier.

In support of the future aircraft carrier program, PMS 378 tasked the Design Support Department's Naval Architecture group (241) to develop carrier feasibility level ships designs. These designs will be used for analysis of alternatives (AoA) studies, being directed by the Center of Naval Analysis, which are required to transition a new ship program to Milestone I (MS I) before the Navy can officially begin procurement. The AoA effort consists of three parts, each lasting one year. Part 1 (FY 97) looked at ship impacts that addressed the overall size and configuration of the carrier. Part 2 (FY 98) concentrated on ship studies reflecting propulsion plant choice, impacts of different passive protection systems, and the influence of reduced signature technologies. Part 3 (FY 99) concentrated on the need for a new hullform or the further evolution of the current Nimitz Class hullform, to meet the anticipated needs of the future carriers.

One of the more interesting studies he conducted was the AoA Part 1 study, titled "Study 3C." Study 3C was McWhite's attempt to develop a carrier design that could meet the most stringent signature requirements. Radar Cross Section (RCS), Infra-Red (IR) and noise signature goals were pursued in this design, centered around a 60-plane airwing. Study 3C consisted of a radical new ship design based on the premise that all of the ship's aircraft needed to be shielded from enemy radar and IR seekers. This design involves a two-level flight deck. The upper flight deck consists of an axial aircraft recovery runway that also doubles as an alternative aircraft-launching zone (equipped with two aircraft catapults). This upper flight deck is serviced by three outboard aircraft elevators to a lower flight deck that housed a large centerline aircraft hangar. The hangar allows access (port/starboard) to smaller aircraft launching zones (each equipped with one aircraft catapult). On the port and starboard edges of this lower flight deck, RCS shields are installed to shield the aircraft being housed in the hangar and those aircraft being serviced or launched along the port and starboard lower catapults. To house all the aircraft, an additional lower hangar was needed under the main lower flight deck hangar. This additional aircraft hangar (not shown) is accessed by two inboard (fwd/aft) aircraft elevators, located within the upper hangar. To further enhance the RCS capabilities of the design, the McWhite replaced the more traditional "hurricane" carrier bow with a newer "wave-piercing" bow hullform, improving the sea handling characteristics of the ship.

To investigate this new radical hullform design, two scale models were constructed. The first was a 19-foot model. The second was a 7-foot display model. Both models were cut from polyester foam blocks using computer milling machines, reinforced with steel framing on the inside, and coated with a smooth fiberglass skin on the exposed side. A modified triangular wedge on the upper portion of the wave-piercing bow was added to the display model after reviewing the larger model's wave tank performance data. The display model was sized for wind tunnel experiments.

In AoA Part 2, three additional derivatives of the 3C design were refined to address airwing sizes of 55, 65 and 75 aircraft (CVX Studies S1.S and S2, respectively). Although all these designs were based upon nuclear propulsion, a conventional study (CVX Study S4) was also performed using gas turbines and electric drive. Lessons learned from these designs should play a significant role in the final CVX carrier design.

This configuration was not pursued for CVX. Other, less-radical concepts were now favored. However, this unique design developed by McWhite has been patented by the Navy and is currently under investigation for use in the DD 21 combatant ship designs. Based on the cost and performance criteria developed for both Parts 1 and 2 of the AoA, the U.S. Navy has already committed CVX to be of nuclear propulsion and to have a flight deck that will support 75 aircraft. McWhite is currently working on AoA Part 3 carrier studies, which are concentrating on hullform, protection options, and the cost of implementing proposed R&D technologies into the final MS I, CVX performance specification.

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