After the publication in September 2013 of the report of the US Audit Chamber on the state of the construction program for the new generation of the leading aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), a number of articles appeared in the foreign and domestic press in which the construction of the aircraft carrier was considered in a very negative light. Some of these articles exaggerated the significance of real problems with the construction of the ship and presented information rather one-sidedly. Let's try to figure out what the state of the construction program for the latest American aircraft carrier is in. fleet and what are her prospects.
LONG AND DEAR WAY TO THE NEW ARRAY MASTER
The construction contract for Gerald R. Ford was signed on 10 on September 2008 of the year. The ship was laid on 13 in November 2009, at the Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) shipyard of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the only American shipyard on which atomic aircraft carriers are built. The ceremony of the aircraft carrier's baptism took place on November 9 of 2013.
At the conclusion of the contract in 2008, the cost of construction of the Gerald R. Ford was estimated at 10,5 billion dollars, but then it grew by about 22% and today is 12,8 billion dollars, including 3,3 billion dollars of one-time costs for designing the entire aircraft carrier series new generation. This amount does not include the cost of R & D to build a new generation aircraft carrier, for which, according to the budget of the Congress, 4,7 billion dollars were spent.
In 2001 – 2007 fiscal years, 3,7 billion dollars were allocated to create the backlog, 2008 billion dollars were allocated in 2011 – 7,8 fiscal years, 2014 should be additionally allocated in 2015 – 1,3 fiscal years billion dollars
During the construction of Gerald R. Ford, certain delays also arose - it was originally planned to transfer the ship to the fleet in September of 2015. One of the reasons for the delays was the inability of subcontractors to supply in full and on time the valves for the chilled water supply system specially designed for the aircraft carrier. Another reason was the use of thinner steel sheets in the manufacture of ship decks to reduce weight and increase the aircraft carrier’s metacentric height, which is necessary to increase the ship’s modernization potential and to install additional equipment in the future. The result of this was the frequent cases of deformation of steel sheets in the finished sections, which resulted in long and costly work to eliminate the deformation.
To date, the transfer of the aircraft carrier to the fleet is scheduled for February 2016 of the year. After that, for approximately 10 months, state tests of the integration of the main systems of the ship will be carried out, followed by final state tests, the duration of which will be about 32 months. From August 2016 to February 2017, additional systems will be installed on the aircraft carrier and changes will be made to those already installed. The ship’s initial combat readiness should reach the 2017 of the year in July, and its full combat readiness in February of the 2019. Such a long period between the transfer of the ship to the fleet and the achievement of combat readiness, according to the head of the US Navy's aircraft-carrier programs department, Rear Admiral Thomas Moore, is natural for the lead ship of a new generation, especially as complex as an atomic carrier.
The rising cost of building an aircraft carrier was one of the key reasons for sharp criticism of the program from the Congress, its various services and the press. The cost of R & D and the construction of the ship, which are now estimated at 17,5 billion dollars, seem astronomical. At the same time, I would like to note a number of factors that should be taken into account.
First, the construction of new generation ships, both in the United States and in other countries, is almost always associated with a sharp increase in the cost and timing of the program. Examples of such programs include the construction of San-Antonio-type amphibious assault ships, coastal warships such as LCS and destroyers like Zumwalt in the USA, destroyers like Daring and nuclear submarines of the type Astute in the UK, frigates of the 22350 project and non-nuclear submarines project 677 in Russia.
Secondly, thanks to the introduction of new technologies, which will be discussed below, the Navy expects to reduce the cost of the ship’s full life cycle (life cycle) compared to Nimitz aircraft carriers by about 16% - from 32 billion dollars to 27 billion (in 2004 prices of the year). With the lifespan of a ship in 50 years, the costs of a new generation aircraft carrier program stretched by about a decade and a half do not look so astronomical.
Third, almost half of 17,5 billions of dollars are spent on research and development and one-time design costs, which means significantly less (in constant prices) the cost of mass-produced aircraft carriers. Some of the technologies introduced at Gerald R. Ford, in particular, the new generation of arresting gear, may be introduced in the future on some Nimitz-type aircraft carriers as they are upgraded. It is assumed that the construction of serial aircraft carriers will also be able to avoid many of the problems encountered during the construction of Gerald R. Ford, including disruptions in the work of subcontractors and the NNS shipyard itself, which also has a positive impact on the timing and cost of construction. Finally, 17,5 billion dollars stretched over a decade and a half make up less than 3% of the total US military spending in the budget for the 2014 fiscal year.
WITH A VISION TO THE PERSPECTIVE
For about 40 years, nuclear aircraft carriers of the United States were built on one project (USS Nimitz was laid in 1968, its last sistership USS George HW Bush was transferred to the fleet in 2009). Naturally, changes were made to the project of aircraft carriers of the Nimitz type, but the project did not undergo drastic changes, which raised the question of creating an aircraft carrier of a new generation and introducing a significant number of new technologies necessary for the effective operation of the US Navy aircraft carrier component in the 21st century.
External differences Gerald R. Ford from their predecessors at first glance do not seem significant. A smaller but larger “island” is shifted more than 40 meters closer to the stern and a little closer to the starboard. The ship is equipped with three aircraft lifts instead of four on aircraft carriers such as Nimitz. The flight deck area is increased by 4,4%. The layout of the flight deck involves the optimization of the movement of ammunition, aircraft and cargo, as well as the simplification of inter-flight maintenance of aircraft, which will be carried out directly on the flight deck.
The aircraft carrier project Gerald R. Ford involves the introduction of 13 new critical technologies. Initially, it was supposed to gradually introduce new technologies during the construction of the last aircraft carrier of the Nimitz type and the first two aircraft carriers of the new generation, but in 2002, it was decided to introduce all key technologies during the construction of Gerald R. Ford. This decision was one of the reasons for the complexity and significant increase in the cost of building a ship. The reluctance to postpone the implementation of the Gerald R. Ford construction program has led the NNS to begin building the ship without a final project.
The technologies introduced at Gerald R. Ford should achieve two key objectives: to increase the efficiency of deck applications. aviation and, as mentioned above, reducing the cost of PZhZ. It is planned to increase the number of sorties per day by 25% compared with aircraft carriers of the Nimitz type (from 120 to 160 with a 12-hour flight day). For a short time with Gerald R. Ford, it is planned to provide up to 270 sorties with a 24-hour flight day. For comparison, in 1997, during the JTFEX 97-2 exercises, the Nimitz aircraft carrier managed to carry out 771 strike flights under the most favorable conditions within four days (about 193 sorties per day).
New technologies should make it possible to reduce the crew size of the ship from approximately 3300 to 2500 people, and the size of the wing will be approximately from 2300 to 1800 people. The value of this factor is difficult to overestimate, given that the costs associated with the crew, are about 40% of the cost of life cycle aircraft carrier type Nimitz. The duration of the operational cycle of an aircraft carrier, including a planned average or current repair and overhaul period, is planned to increase from 32 to 43 months. Dock repair is planned to be carried out once every 12 years, and not 8 years, as on aircraft carriers like the Nimitz.
Much of the criticism that the Gerald R. Ford program was subjected to in the September report of the Chamber of Accounts is related to the technical readiness level (UTG) of the ship’s critical technologies, namely, their achievement of the UTG 6 (readiness for testing under the required conditions) and the UTG 7 (readiness to mass production and regular operation), and then the UTG 8 – 9 (confirmation of the possibility of regular operation of serial samples in necessary and real conditions, respectively). The development of a number of critical technologies has experienced significant delays. Not wanting to postpone the construction and transfer of the ship to the fleet, the Navy decided to start mass production and installation of critical systems parallel to the ongoing tests until the UTG 7 was reached. As is rightly noted in the report of the Accounts Chamber, if any significant problems and shortcomings in the operation of the key systems of the ship are identified in the future, this can lead to long-lasting and costly changes, as well as a decrease in the combat potential of the ship.
The Director of Operations Evaluation and Testing (DOT & E) 2013 Annual Report was recently released, which also criticizes the Gerald R. Ford program. The criticism of the program builds on the October 2013 evaluation.
The report points to "low or unrecognized" reliability and availability of a number of Gerald R. Ford's critical technologies, including catapults, aerofinishers, multifunctional radar and aircraft munition lifts, which could negatively impact sortie rates and require additional redesign. According to DOT & E, the declared rate of flight intensity (160 per day under normal conditions and 270 for a short time) is based on overly optimistic conditions (unlimited visibility, good weather, no malfunctions in ship systems, etc.) and is unlikely to be achieved. Nevertheless, it will be possible to assess this only during the operational assessment and testing of the ship before it reaches its initial combat readiness.
The DOT & E report notes that the current timing of the Gerald R. Ford program does not suggest enough time for development testing and troubleshooting. The riskiness of carrying out a number of development tests after the start of the operational assessment and testing is emphasized.
The DOT & E report also notes the inability of Gerald R. Ford to support data transmission over multiple CDL channels, which may limit the ability of an aircraft carrier to interact with other forces and means, a high risk that the ship's self-defense systems will not meet existing requirements, and insufficient time for crew training ... All this could, according to DOT & E, jeopardize the successful conduct of operational assessment and testing and the achievement of initial combat readiness.
Rear Admiral Thomas Moore and other representatives of the Navy and NNS spoke out in defense of the program and expressed their confidence that all existing problems will be resolved within the two years remaining before the aircraft carrier is handed over to the fleet. Navy officials also challenged a number of other findings of the report, including the "overly optimistic" reported sortie rate. It should be noted that the presence of critical remarks in the DOT & E report is natural, given the specifics of the work of this department (as well as the Accounts Chamber), as well as the inevitable difficulties in the implementation of such a complex program as the construction of a new generation lead aircraft carrier. Little of the US military program is criticized in DOT & E reports.
Two of the 13 key stations being implemented at Gerald R. Ford are combined DBR radar, including the X-band AN / SPY-3 MFR X-band active phased array radar from AFthe S-band AFAR / SPY-4 VSR manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The DBR radar program began in the 1999 year, when the Navy signed a contract with Raytheon for OCR to develop the MFR radar. Install a DBR radar on the Gerald R. Ford is scheduled for 2015 year.
To date, the MFR radar is on the UTG 7. The radar completed ground tests in the 2005 year and tests on the remote-controlled SDTS test ship in the 2006 year. In the 2010 year, ground-based integration tests of the MFR prototype and VSR were completed. MFR tests at Gerald R. Ford are scheduled for 2014 year. Also, this radar will be installed on destroyers such as Zumwalt.
The situation with the VSR radar is somewhat worse: today, this radar is located on the UTG 6. It was originally planned to install a VSR radar as part of a DBR radar on Zumwalt-type destroyers. The ground-based prototype installed at 2006 in the Wallops Island test center was supposed to be ready for mass production in the 2009 year, and the radar on the destroyer was supposed to complete basic tests in the 2014 year. But the cost of development and creation of VSR increased from 202 million dollars to 484 million (+ 140%), and in the 2010 year, the installation of this radar on destroyers such as Zumwalt was refused for reasons of cost savings. This led to almost a five-year delay in the testing and refinement of the radar. The end of ground-based testing of the prototype is scheduled for 2014 year, tests for Gerald R. Ford - in 2016-m, the achievement of the UTG 7 - in 2017 year.
Weapons engineers hang the AIM-120 UR on an F / A-18E Super Hornet fighter.
ELECTROMAGNETIC CATAPULTS AND AIR FINISHERS
Equally important technologies at Gerald R. Ford are EMALS electromagnetic catapults and modern AAG cable airfinders. These two technologies play a key role in increasing the number of sorties per day, and also contribute to a reduction in crew size. Unlike existing systems, the power of EMALS and AAG can be precisely controlled depending on the mass of the aircraft (LA), which allows launching both light UAVs and heavy aircraft. Due to this, AAG and EMALS significantly reduce the load on the airframe of the aircraft, which contributes to an increase in the service life and lower the operating cost of the aircraft. In comparison with steam electromagnetic catapults, it is much lighter, occupies less volume, has greater efficiency, contributes to a significant reduction in corrosion, and requires less labor for maintenance.
EMALS and AAG are installed at Gerald R. Ford in parallel with the continuation of tests at the United Base McGwire Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey. AAG refiners and EMALS electromagnetic catapults are currently on the 6 ATG. The achievement of EMALS and AAGUTG 7 is planned after the termination of ground tests in 2014 and 2015 respectively, although it was originally planned to achieve this level in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The cost of developing and building AAG increased from 75 million to 168 million (+ 125%), and EMALS from 318 million to 743 million (+ 134%).
In June 2014, the AAG must pass the test with the landing of the aircraft at Gerald R. Ford. By the 2015 year, it is planned to land about 600 aircraft.
The first aircraft from the EMALS simplified ground prototype was launched on December 18 2010. They became the F / A-18E Super Hornet from the 23 th test and evaluation squadron. The first phase of the EMALS ground prototype test ended in the fall of the 2011 of the year and included the 133 take-off. In addition to the F / A-18E with the EMALS, the T-45C Goshawk training aircraft, the C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye long-range radar detection and control aircraft took off. November 18 2011 of the year with EMALS for the first time took off a promising fifth-generation fighter-bomber of the fifth generation F-35C LightingII. 25 June 2013 of the Year with EMALS for the first time took off the EW EA-18G Growler aircraft, marking the beginning of the second test phase, which should include about 300 take-offs.
The desired average for EMALS is about 1250 aircraft launches between critical failures. Now this figure is about 240 launches. The situation with the AAG, according to DOT & E, is even worse: with the desired average of about 5000 aircraft landings between critical failures, the current figure is only 20 landings. The question remains open as to whether the Navy and industry will be able to address the reliability issues of the AAG and EMALS in a timely manner. The position of the Navy and industry themselves, in contrast to the GAO and DOT & E, is very optimistic on this issue.
For example, steam catapults of the C-13 model (0, 1 and 2 series), despite their inherent drawbacks compared with electromagnetic catapults, demonstrated a high degree of reliability. So, in 1990-s on 800, thousands of aircraft launches from the decks of American aircraft carriers had only 30 serious problems, and only one of them led to the loss of the aircraft. In February – June 2011, the aircraft wing of the aircraft carrier Enterprise performed about 3000 combat missions as part of the operation in Afghanistan. The share of successful launches with steam catapults was about 99%, and of the 112 days of flight operations, only 18 days (16%) were spent on maintenance of the catapults.
OTHER CRITICAL IMPORTANT TECHNOLOGIES
The heart of Gerald R. Ford is a nuclear power plant (NPP) with two A1B reactors manufactured by Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation (UTG 8). Electricity production will increase 3,5 times compared to NI NI aircraft carriers (with two A4W reactors), which allows replacing hydraulic systems with electric ones and installing systems such as EMALS, AAG, and advanced high-energy weapon systems of directional action. The electric power system Gerald R. Ford differs from its counterparts on ships like the Nimitz by its compactness, lower labor costs in operation, which leads to a decrease in the number of crew and the cost of life-saving personnel of the ship. Gerald R. Ford is expected to achieve an 2014 of the year in December. No complaints about the operation of the ship’s nuclear power unit have been identified. The UTG 7 was made back in the 2004 year.
Other critical technologies of Gerald R. Ford include elevators for the transport of aviation ammunition AWE - UTG 6 (UTG 7 is to be achieved in 2014; the ship is planned to install 11 elevators instead of 9 on aircraft carriers of the Nimitz type; the use of linear electric motors instead of cables has increased the load from 5 to 11 tons and increase the survivability of the ship by installing horizontal gates in armory cellars), compatible with the MFR radar control protocol for the ESSMJUWL air defense system - UTG 6 (UTG 7 is planned to be achieved in 2014), an all-weather landing system using the GPS JPALS satellite global positioning system - UTG 6 (UTG 7 should be achieved in the near future), plasma -arc furnace for waste processing PAWDS and station for receiving cargo on the move HURRS - UTG 7, reverse osmosis desalination plant (+ 25% capacity compared to existing systems) and high-strength low-alloy steel HSLA 115 - UTG 8 used in the ship's flight deck, used in bulkheads and decks high-strength low-alloy steel HSLA 65 - UTG 9.
The success of the Gerald R. Ford program depends to a great extent on the success of the implementation of the wing-wing aircraft wing modernization program. In the short term (until the middle of the 2030-s), seeming changes in this area at first glance will boil down to replacing the “classic” Hornet F / A-18C / D with F-35C and the emergence of a heavy deck UAV, currently being developed under the UCLASS program . These two priority programs will give the US Navy what they lack today: an increase in combat radius and stealth. The F-35C fighter-bomber, which plans to purchase both the fleet and the Marine Corps, will perform primarily the tasks of the “first day of war” strike stealth aircraft. The UCLASS UAV, which is likely to be built with a wider, albeit smaller than F-35C, use of stealth technology, will become a strike and reconnaissance platform capable of being in the air for a very long time in the area of combat operations.
Achieving initial combat readiness for the F-35C in the US Navy is planned according to current plans in August 2018 of the year, that is, later than in other combat arms. This is due to the more serious requirements of the Navy — they recognize the F-35C in the fleet only after the readiness of the Block 3F version, which provides support for a wider range of weapons compared to the earlier versions, which the Air Force and the International Maritime Commission will arrange for the first time. Also, the avionics will be more fully disclosed, in particular, the radar station will be able to fully operate in the synthetic aperture mode, which is necessary, for example, to search for and destroy small ground targets in adverse weather conditions. F-35C should become not only the “first day” strike aircraft, but also the “eyes and ears of the fleet” —in the conditions of the widespread use of such anti-access / area denial means A2 / AD, as modern air defense missile systems will be able to delve into the airspace controlled by the enemy.
The result of the UCLASS program should be the creation of a heavy UAV by the end of the decade, capable of long flights, primarily for reconnaissance purposes. In addition, they want to entrust it with the tasks of striking ground targets, a tanker, and possibly even a medium-range carrier-to-air missile carrier, capable of hitting air targets with external target designation.
UCLASS is for the Navy and the experiment, only having gained experience in operating such a complex, they will be able to correctly develop the requirements for replacing their main fighter, the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet. The fighter of the sixth generation will be at least optionally manned, and possibly completely unmanned.
Also in the near future there will be a replacement of carrier-based aircraft E-2C Hawkeye to the machines of the new modification - E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The E-2D will be distinguished by more efficient engines, a new radar and significantly greater capabilities for acting as an air command post and a node of the network-centric battlefield due to new operator workstations and support for modern and future data transmission channels.
The Navy plans to link the F-35C, UCLASS and other fleet forces into a single information network with the possibility of rapid multilateral data transfer. The concept was called Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). The main efforts for its successful implementation are not focused on the development of new aircraft or types of weapons, but on new highly secure over-the-horizon data transmission channels with high performance. In the future, the Air Force will probably also be included in the NIFC-CA within the framework of the concept of “Air-Sea Operation” On the way to the NIFC-CA Navy to solve a wide range of complex technological problems.
Obviously, the construction of ships of the new generation requires considerable time and resources, and the development and introduction of new critical technologies is always associated with significant risks. The experience of the implementation of the new generation aircraft carrier program by the Americans should serve as a source of experience for the Russian fleet. It is necessary to study as fully as possible the risks that the US Navy faced during the construction of Gerald R. Ford, wishing to concentrate the maximum number of new technologies on one ship. It seems more reasonable to gradually introduce new technologies during construction, to achieve a high UTG before installing systems directly on the ship. But here, too, it is necessary to take into account risks, namely, the need to minimize changes to the project during the construction of ships and ensure sufficient modernization potential for the introduction of new technologies.