The US Navy’s last aircraft carrier?

On the threshold of 2023, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) marked a milestone by completing her first global deployment in Mediterranean waters.

The cornerstone of the U.S. Navy’s new generation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the ship demonstrated its operational capabilities by conducting more than 8,000 air operations in response to the war between Israel and Hamas.

Despite facing challenges since its inception, including a series of technical and operational setbacks, the USS Gerald R. Ford’s unique capabilities make it an indispensable asset to fleets.

However, debate among experts revolves around the high cost of the Ford-class ships and their susceptibility to cyber attacks, hypersonic missiles and other emerging threats, which may call into question the future feasibility of the “supercarrier” concept.

Debate over future of superaircraft carriers in the face of new threats

Why are the Ford-class aircraft carriers the best in history?Why are the Ford-class aircraft carriers the best in history?
USS Gerald R. USS Ford (CVN-78) passes through the Atlantic Ocean on March 19, 2023. US Navy photo.

The question arises whether the Ford class will represent the last line of aircraft carriers that the US Navy will build, given a panorama in which threats evolve at a rapid pace.

The Nimitz class, the predecessor to the Fords, exemplifies the historical relevance of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. For nearly five decades, these 100,000-ton leviathans have been a mainstay of the Navy, flying at speeds of more than 30 knots thanks to their two A4W nuclear reactors, and proving to be a strategic pillar of naval power projection.

As the successor to this lineage, the Ford-Class design has been refined to surpass its predecessors. Originating from the CVN-21 program, this new class introduces significant innovations that enhance operational efficiency, such as the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMAL) and Advanced Arrest Gear (AAG), thereby significantly improving the aircraft’s capability and performance. . Of this class.

The superiority of the Ford-class aircraft carriers lies in their revolutionary technology and strategic design. The use of systems such as EMAL (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System) and AAG (Advanced Arresting Gear) allows these maritime giants to carry out 25% more aerial missions and generate unprecedented electrical capacity, three times that generated by their predecessors.

Powered by the innovative A1B nuclear reactor developed by Bechtel, these ships far exceed the power of the A4W reactors powering the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Progress and Weakness: The Dialectics of the Ford Class

An F/A-18F Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 launches from the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Takes off from the flight deck of Ford (CVN 78). , March 10, 2023. As the first Ford-class aircraft carrier, CVN 78 represents a generational leap in the U.S. Navy’s ability to project power on a global scale.

Designed to dominate the seas and embrace future technologies not yet imagined, the Ford-class aircraft carriers symbolize the U.S. Navy’s vision for the future. This ability to predict and adapt guarantees that they will maintain their strategic relevance despite their high acquisition and exploitation costs.

However, this advanced flotilla faces significant challenges arising from the changing global threat landscape. The proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), along with the development of hypersonic missiles, pose formidable challenges.

These new threats, able to evade traditional defenses, could compromise the safety of these giants of the sea. Additionally, the inherent complexity of Ford aircraft carrier systems makes them potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks, increasing the range of risks they face.

Despite these challenges, the strategic capability provided by aircraft carriers to project air power from any point at sea remains a fundamental pillar of U.S. national defense.

Although other ships, such as frigates and conventionally powered aircraft carriers, can perform similar functions, none match the level of effectiveness and sophistication that modern nuclear-powered aircraft carriers provide to US military strategy.

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