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Costly ‘technological marvel’: US Navy christens new class $13bn aircraft carrier

The US Navy has christened the first of a new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the 13-billion-dollar USS Gerald R. Ford. The ship, hailed as the most technologically advanced ever built, is expected to join the fleet in 2016.

The ship is the Navy’s first carrier designed in more than 40  years. The Ford-class aircraft carriers will replace current  Nimitz class that was launched in 1972. The Ford is projected to  stay in service until 2057.
The ship, named after US President Gerald Ford, was christened at  the ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding in  Newport News, Va. on Saturday. The new aircraft carrier is  planned to replace the USS Enterprise (CVN-65).
The former president’s daughter, Susan Ford Bales, who was also  the ship’s sponsor, performed the ceremonial breaking of a bottle  of champagne on the ship’s bow in front of more than 20,000  sailors, shipbuilders and civilians.           The ceremony comes after more than 12 years of planning and   construction.     “The carrier is our Navy’s most adaptable platform,” Adm.  Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said, calling the  Ford a “technological marvel”. “Ford will herald a new era of  our carrier fleet,” he added.
Stretching 330 m (1,092 feet) long, the ship will feature a new  nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic  catapults and improved weapons movement.
The carrier will be able to carry more warplanes and launch 25  per cent more air missions per day than the current carriers. The  US Navy required the carrier to support up to a maximum of 220  sorties a day in times of crisis and intense air warfare  activity.


The new craft will accommodate almost 4,500 crew members,  compared to the average 5,500 people operating a Nimitz class  carrier, and up to 90 aircrafts along with unmanned combat air  vehicles (UAVs).
The USS Gerald Ford will be equipped with two newly-designed  reactors and will have 250 percent more electrical capacity than  previous carriers. This will also support a cruising speed over  30 knots.

  Super-expensive super-carrier

Requiring 1,000 fewer crew members and 30 per cent less  maintenance over its 50-year lifespan, the Ford is said to let  the US Navy save $4 billion.
While the Navy praises this as another significant advantage,  critics say, the cost of building the ship has already  skyrocketed.  With the carrier now 70 per cent complete,  construction costs are about 22 per cent over the over the  scheduled budget.
The high price still will not guarantee that after it is  commissioned in 2016 the carrier will not face “significant  reliability shortfalls”, as the Government Accountability  Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said in September.
This may limit the ship’s mission effectiveness and increase the  government’s costs even more.




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