On June 18, the U.S. Navy announced that the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully completed its first Full Ship Shock Trial, marking the last critical type test for the newest Ford-class carrier and making the first Ford carrier ready for formal deployment and paving the way for the The first Ford-class carrier was ready for deployment and paved the way for the construction of subsequent Ford-class carriers.
While the Ford carrier was designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing and analysis to ensure it could withstand the combat environment, blast impact testing as the first ship was still essential to finally validate and collect data on the impact strength the ship could withstand.
The U.S. Navy has been conducting similar blast-impact tests on all types of ships for decades. The last time was 2016, when the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 6) and the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) both underwent the same test. the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Ward (LPD 19) in 2008, the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in 1990 and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Maube (CG 53), all of which have also undergone similar tests.
The June 18 test was conducted on the U.S. Army’s next-generation Ford-class aircraft carrier, and thousands of pounds of explosives were detonated next to the Ford carrier about 100 miles off the Florida coast to simulate the carrier’s exposure to blast impacts under combat conditions. impact data. According to U.S. Navy and government seismic monitoring, the explosion was recorded as a 3.9 magnitude earthquake.
In April, the Ford carrier successfully concluded an 18-month post-delivery test and trials period, completing all required tests, including critical carrier takeoff and landing certifications, potentially conducting thousands of carrier takeoff and landing drills, while also completing planned improvements and maintenance ahead of schedule to ensure the reliability of various systems, as required by the U.S. Navy.
Blast impact testing is the final critical test for the Ford carrier, which is expected to undergo a six-month period of modernization and maintenance later in the summer before the Ford is officially deployed. According to U.S. Army carrier standards, a maintained carrier needs to be rated as a newly built ship before it can enter operational deployment.
Ripples in the water left by explosive detonation as the USS Ford aircraft carrier (CVN 78) conducts an explosive impact test, June 18. (U.S. Navy)
With a final construction cost of more than $12.8 billion and an additional R&D cost of about $4.7 billion, the USS Ford carrier will gradually replace the current Nimitz-class carriers after service, with the first Ford currently in operational readiness and two others under construction. The Ford carrier is equipped with the more advanced AN/SPY-3 and AN/SPY-4 active electronically scanned array multifunction radars, and replaces the existing steam catapult with an electromagnetic aircraft catapult system, which frees up a lot of space below deck by eliminating the massive steam system. A Ford-class carrier using electromagnetic catapults should complete 25 percent more aircraft ejections per day than a Nimitz-class carrier.
The electromagnetic catapult system has been controversial and suspected of being insufficiently reliable, and a U.S. Department of Defense report in early 2021 noted that the Ford carriers are not currently meeting the requirement for continuous, trouble-free ejection of 4,166 aircraft. Electromagnetic ejection is the most advanced ejection system in the world and requires a large electrical supply, which the U.S. military’s nuclear-powered carriers can provide. Outside of the U.S. carriers, France’s Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear-powered carrier that could theoretically be retrofitted with an electromagnetic catapult system. Other countries’ carriers are not yet qualified, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Communist China, Russia, and India carriers that use a sliding jump deck and do not have a catapult system.
The Ford-class carriers use more advanced technology and automation equipment, reducing the required crew and aircrew on board to about 4,500, compared to the current Nimitz carriers, which carry about 6,000 people, equivalent to a 25 percent reduction. Although the Ford-class carriers were initially more expensive to build, the U.S. Navy estimates that they should save $4 billion in operating costs over their 50-year lifespan. During testing, the U.S. Navy had raised significant issues such as advanced weapons elevator operations, and a series of improvements were subsequently made. The Ford-class carriers will eventually need to verify the reliability and effectiveness of various systems in actual combat deployments, and even in actual combat.
The blast impact test is a key test for the U.S. Navy’s main warships and represents the technical advancement and standardization of U.S. weapons development. The Chinese Communist Party, imitating the former Soviet Union’s aircraft carriers, may understand similar tests, but presumably does not know how to conduct them. More people within the Chinese Communist Party should be concerned about how they can make a big profit from them, while completing their political offerings to the top of the Chinese Communist Party as soon as possible. The duel between Chinese and American aircraft carriers shows how big the gap is from the starting line.