In a move that is both very prudent and quite late, Frank Kendall, the Undersecretary Of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, has ordered that the US Navy's newest and most advanced aircraft carrier - the USS Gerald Ford - undergo an independent review to determine the future of some of the Ford's most advanced technology.
Like we mentioned months ago in our State of the Carrier Force article, while the advanced technology on the Ford is expensive, it may be both less effective and less reliable than the current sensors and aircraft launch and recovery aboard current US carriers.
News of the review came from a memo from Kendall to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg. In that memo, Kendall expresses concern at the inclusion of the large number of advanced and untested technologies aboard the Ford, stating:
With the benefit of hindsight, it was clearly premature to include so many unproven technologies in the Gerald R, Ford... What we have to determine now is whether it is best to stay the course or adjust our plans, particularly for future ships of the class.
The main areas of concern for the Ford are the new Main Turbine Generators that supply the ship power, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and the Advanced Arresting Gear that are responsible for the carrier's primary mission of launching and recovering aircraft, and the carrier's new and (supposedly state-of-the-art) dual-band radar.
As we mentioned in our previous article, the new systems for launching and recovering aircraft have both experienced their share of teething problems, and an aircraft carrier that isn't able to launch or recover its aircraft with a near-100% success rate is essentially useless.
While this review is important, it likely will do little do change the path forward for the Ford. With an expected delivery date of early 2018 and it being ready for combat operations in 2021, there is little that can be done with such a limited time frame.
The hope, however, is that if this review highlights major problems, they can make appropriate adjustments for future Ford-class ships. The John F. Kennedy, the second ship of the class, is already under construction, so it's likely that any major problems found by the Ford's review wouldn't be fixed until the 3rd ship of the class.
This review is expected to be completed around mid-November.