ARLINGTON, Va. – Aircraft carrier first class Gerald R. Ford may cost more over its lifetime than planned because of reduced maintenance costs, a program manager said today at a meeting of the American Society of Naval Engineers here.
Captain Brian Metcalf said the new Ford vessel was designed with an automated system that allows for a smaller crew as well as improvements to the vessel that will enable the vessel to require three major pier maintenance services during its lifetime, instead of the five required by the legacy. Nimitz class.
Overall, he said, the Ford class is now slated to cost about $5 billion more per ship per year than its predecessor, the Nimitz class. That exceeds the target of $4 billion per ship per year in savings.
He told Ulinzi News that the minimum maintenance cost is a savings account.
“The biggest difference between the target and what we are witnessing is the maintenance that Ford has gone through so far,” he said. “I’ll stop that to say, we’re 2% or less in 500 years of aircraft carriers that we’re going to have the Ford class.”
He said early numbers show that Ford’s recent supplier acquisitions, and its planned future acquisitions, will cost less than previously estimated.
Ford is the first carrier in its class. John F. Kennedy is more than 90% complete and will deliver to the Navy in 2025. Enterprise is about 35% complete and “starting to look like a ship now,” Metcalf said. Doris Miller is in the very early stages of her construction. And the Navy is looking at plans to buy the next two carriers, CVNs 82 and 83, in a two-ship deal later this decade.
While it’s too early to tell if the cost savings will continue, the revised estimates could mean the Navy would need less money in its operations and maintenance budget each year, freeing up dollars for readiness or other procurement needs.
Metcalf, in his remarks, also noted Ford is still going through some of the remaining test and evaluation events as a class-leading fleet.
During a short-term deployment in late 2022, the carrier flew 1,250 sorties — or airfield missions — and traveled 9,000 miles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Today, Ford is in the Eastern Mediterranean, as the war between Israel and Hamas is currently in a temporary ceasefire.
“They were supposed to be home for Thanksgiving, and now they won’t be home for Christmas,” Metcalf said.
When the ship’s major test and evaluation program was drafted two and a half years ago, it called for deployments to end in November and some test and evaluation events to take place as early as 2024. Although the Navy is required by its Operational Test. and the Pentagon’s Evaluation Command and Director of Operational Test and Evaluation to meet test goals on time, “it’s very easy to say, ‘hey, the ship was doing what the president wanted the ship to do,'” Metcalf said.
The remaining test events will be delayed and the schedule rescheduled, the captain said.
Megan Eckstein is a naval warfare reporter at Defense News. He has covered military news since 2009, focusing on Navy and Marine Corps operations, procurement programs and budgets. He has reported from four geodesic ships and is happiest when writing stories from a ship. Megan is a graduate of the University of Maryland.