ABOARD THE FUTURE CARRIER FORD IN NEWPORT NEWS, VA — Electromagnetic catapults and a soaring $13 billion price tag get most headlines, but it is a variety of creature comforts and convenience that are making the Navy’s next supercarrier a hit with its crew.
The future aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford boasts amenities like smaller berthings, tricked out gyms and loaded lounges, plus many design changes like wider passageways that make the ship more livable.
“I’ve never seen a p-way that wide,” said Damage Controlman 2nd Class Mario Covington, one of the nearly 1,000 members of the pre-commissioning crew to report for duty. “Usually, we have about 12 guys struggling with each other to get in their [firefighting ensemble]. But here you can get dressed out and have someone inspect you with enough space for others to enter and exit the area. Big difference. Huge difference.”
One of the big reasons the future USS Gerald Ford costs so much more than its Nimitz predecessors is that so much has changed. Remember, the Nimitz class is essentially a late 1960s design. Ford, however, is a 21st century design. There’s been quite a change in not just how ships are designed and built, but also the fundamental technologies that are used aboard ship. In World War II, heads simply flushed raw sewerage overboard with a salt water flush. That’s not acceptable today. So a far more expensive sewerage system has to be provided. Likewise, more comfortable berthing comes at a higher cost as well. That’s to say nothing of the capital costs of building two nuclear power plants that will have to provide 50 years of service on one load of fuel.
There will be engineering challenges, and issues as they test and deploy Bush. But so far, there haven’t been any major design issues that have cropped up. Now if we can just get Kennedy and Enterprise paid for.