Death in the Sky and on the Water

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This Saturday the United States Navy christened the USS Gerald Ford.  It will replace the USS Enterprise which was the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier which was decommissioned in December.  The USS Gerald Ford is a technological marvel.  It’s the first aircraft carrier that will have stealth technology.   Analysts say it would have approximately the same radar cross section as a fishing boat. It contains an electromagnetic rail catapult that will fling jet fighters into the air faster and more efficiently than the ancient steam catapult that flight fighters into the air on all of our other 10 aircraft carriers.  All ten of which are scheduled to be replaced with increasingly sophisticated carriers sometime between now and the next 50 years.  Faster if we actually need them.

The USS Gerald Ford will be able to host approximately 90 aircraft probably a combination of the F-18 super hornet or the F-35.  The F18 super hornet is our premier air dominance and land attack jet.  Remember all the jets from the ’80s?  The F-18 is constructed to upgrade all of those.  The F-35 on the other hand upgrades nothing.  They’re a new class of fighters designed to ensure US dominance in the air for the next 30 years or longer.  The military is going to order thousands of them.  Our Allies are going to be ordering thousands of them.  It will be THE aircraft of this half of the 21st century.  At the moment the best our potential rivals are some prototypes.  Additionally, it looks like the navy is planning on integrating a sizable aircraft drone fleet.

The Gerald Ford will also deploy the LaWS which is short for the unimaginatively named Laser Weapon System.  The LaWS is the first time the US had deployed a directed energy weapon.  More or less.  The US also developed a missile defense laser system with the Israelis called THEL short for the unimaginatively named Tactical High Energy Laser.  It was a fairly successful prototype.  At the moment the LaWS has proven itself against against drones.  The military touts it as the cheaper alternative to missiles, but I think it’s a fairly transparent demonstrator technology.  The military doesn’t want to kill drones will lasers it wants to kill ballistic missiles and is doing a lot of research in laser weapons.

The US Gerald Ford will cost the US approximately 15 Billion Dollars.  Not including the extra planes, weapons systems, and support.  In theory, the technological improvements will let the boat run substantially cheaper than the current class of supercarriers.  It will represent the most potent force projection in the history of the US.



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