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USS Gerald R. Ford a Fiasco?

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"The USS Gerald R. Ford joined the fleet 4 years ago. It has yet to make a single deployment.

U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS TATYANA FREEMAN
  • The Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Gilday, says the U.S. Navy built the aircraft carrier USS Ford with too many new technologies.
  • Now, the Ford is several years behind in its life cycle because of problems with many of those new technologies.
  • The last of the Ford’s four advanced weapon elevators, the most glaring example of the ship’s tech gone wrong, should enter service later this year.

 

The head of the U.S. Navy admits the service added too much untested tech to its latest and greatest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.

When the Navy first built the Ford, it incorporated nearly two dozen new technologies, some of which are still giving the service headaches 4 years after the ship entered the fleet.

 

uss gerald r ford

In a presentation recorded for August’s Sea Air Space exposition, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said adding 23 new features to the Ford was a “mistake” the Navy can’t afford to repeat.

Gilday said he needs to take “a much more deliberate approach with respect to introducing new technologies to any platform”—preferably one that only introduces up to two technologies per ship and thoroughly tests them on land first.

The USS Ford is the inaugural ship in the Ford-class aircraft carriers, the first new class of aircraft carriers in 40 years. The Navy was eager to cram new tech into the Ford, including a new search radar, electromagnetically powered aircraft catapults to replace traditionally steam-powered catapults, a new aircraft recovery system, and 11 electromagnetically powered elevators designed to shuttle bombs and missiles from the ship’s magazine to waiting aircraft.

But technical problems with the new features led to $2.8 billion in cost overruns and delays, resulting in a total ship cost of $13 billion—not including the actual planes on the carrier.

Those delays meant the Navy only commissioned the Ford in 2017, despite laying it down in 2009. Even then, problems lingered, especially with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and the advanced weapon elevators (AWEs).

The ship’s first full deployment, originally scheduled for 2018, is now set for 2022.

As a result of the Ford fiasco, the Navy is building copies of new tech bound for its Constellation-class frigates on land to ensure they work properly, according to U.S. Naval Institute News. The Navy surprisingly didn’t do this for several pieces of key tech that went into the Ford. Gilday also said the last of the 11 AWEs will be operational sometime this year.

The Ford is currently in shock trials, a series of tests off the coast of Florida designed to ensure the ship can withstand shock and battle damage in wartime. The ship will then enter a maintenance period before its first deployment next year. Hopefully." -https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/navy-ships/a37093943/uss-gerald-ford-aircraft-carrier-problems/

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No, a fiasco would be if the thing had so many issues we could never deploy it. It's the first ship of a new class and considering the last supercarrier class was designed about 50 years ago it's to be expected there's a ton of technology changes that were going to cause teething issues. Should they have maybe not tried so many experimental technologies on one platform? Probably. But at the same time it seems like they're getting them working now, so all good. Of course if the ship is constantly plagued by issues then yeah, there might be a problem. It's taken them a long time to get her operational. But there's a lot of new things on board and it's the most advanced warship ever so a long workup period is to be expected. And with the kinks worked out subsequent ships should come on line even faster. 

Could it have been done better/faster? Maybe. But the Nimitzs are still going after 50 years, and if the Ford's last that long 4-5 years in development on the lead ship isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things.

Seems odd to me that the last holdup is a weapon's elevator. The thing has who knows how many electronics, a nuclear power plant, and a new EM catapult system, and the biggest problem is a weapon's elevator? Not sure why we'd need to complicate something that worked in WWII but that's the government I guess.

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11 minutes ago, AJTP89 said:

Seems odd to me that the last holdup is a weapon's elevator. The thing has who knows how many electronics, a nuclear power plant, and a new EM catapult system, and the biggest problem is a weapon's elevator? Not sure why we'd need to complicate something that worked in WWII but that's the government I guess.

Based on the video for some reason the elevators also use EM tech? From the descriptions there are some reaching up to six decks, so I can see how this might be a problem.

Edited by warheart1992
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I understand one of the bigger issues in all of this is that the electric plant is undersized for the amount of power required to run all of these systems.  Some engineer(s) somewhere didn't calculate the power load that would be running under some conditions so the ship can't run all of this EM hardware at the same time.

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Probably they should do some vertical integration with the chiefs of the older CV class to get a full understanding of all systems powered by steam, I'm sure more were present than accounted for. Big oops.

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Fascinating story. ^ 

 

"The Japanese surface vessels (2 cruisers, 2 battleships) fired 1,335 shells at Edsall that afternoon with no more than one or two hits, which failed to stop the destroyer."

 

Doesn't sound like great fire control. Or a lot of WASD hacking.

 

"Vice Admiral Nagumo ordered airstrikes: 26 Type 99 divebombers (Aichi D3A) (kanbaku) in three groups (chutai) took off from the carriers Kaga (8), Hiryū (9), and Sōryū (9). The dive bombers were led by Lieutenants Ogawa, Kobayashi, and Koite respectively. Their 250 kg (550 lb) bombs immobilised Edsall.

At 17:22 the Japanese ships resumed firing on the destroyer. A Japanese camera-man, probably on the cruiser Tone, filmed about 90 seconds of her destruction. (A single frame from this film was culled for use as a propaganda photo later, misidentified as "the British destroyer HMS Pope".) Finally, at 17:31 hrs (19:01 IJN/Tokyo time) Edsall rolled onto her side, "showing her red bottom" according to an officer aboard the Japanese battleship Hiei, and sank amid clouds of steam and smoke. Subsequent Japanese navy reports referred to the incident as "a fiasco".

 

The ship had a humanitarian history:

 

"She did much for international relations by helping alleviate postwar famine in eastern Europe, transporting American commercial operatives, evacuating refugees, furnishing a center of communications for the Near East, and standing by for emergencies. When the Turks expelled the Anatolian Greeks from Smyrna (Izmir), Edsall was one of the American destroyers which evacuated thousands. On 14 September 1922, she took 607 refugees[1] off Litchfield in Smyrna and transported them to Salonika, returning to Smyrna 16 September to act as flagship for the naval forces there. In October she carried refugees from Smyrna to Mytilene on Lesbos Island. She made repeated visits to ports in Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, Egypt, Mandate Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Dalmatia, and Italy, and kept up gunnery and torpedo practice with her sisters until her return to Boston, Massachusetts, for overhaul 26 July 1924."

 

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2 minutes ago, Fallschirmfuchs said:

I think he's talking about the car, the Edsel Ford, technological advanced but a failure in it's heyday.

Edsel - Wikipedia

It's a cute pun.

Of course; but Edsall, a somewhat rundown four-stacker, which actually had a pretty interesting service life, gave the IJN some hell that certainly places it far and above its homonym companion.

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4 minutes ago, Estimated_Prophet said:

Of course; but Edsall, a somewhat rundown four-stacker, which actually had a pretty interesting service life, gave the IJN some hell that certainly places it far and above its homonym companion.

But a bad comparison for the Gerald R Ford class, which will probably be a 3 time billion dollar blunder before the government tells the Navy enough is enough, much like the Zumwalt. Almost be better off bringing back a rundown USS Kitty Hawk to fill the gap while they [edited] around with it, she always had a [edited] Kitty reputation.

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2 hours ago, Fallschirmfuchs said:

But a bad comparison for the Gerald R Ford class, which will probably be a 3 time billion dollar blunder before the government tells the Navy enough is enough, much like the Zumwalt. Almost be better off bringing back a rundown USS Kitty Hawk to fill the gap while they [edited] around with it, she always had a [edited] Kitty reputation.

Depending on how far along they are, I could see the navy quietly retroing the next several ships with some of the older tech.

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2 hours ago, Estimated_Prophet said:

Depending on how far along they are, I could see the navy quietly retroing the next several ships with some of the older tech.

Not really feasible, Kennedy is probably way to far along, and the price tag for ripping it all back out would probably wipe the carrier program out. Enterprise might be an option, except by the time she enters service, the problems should be sorted out.

The US Navy really just has to take it's lumps at this point. They didn't take an old CV like Kitty Hawk, the old Kennedy, or the old Enterprise, install a bunch of the new gear on it, and let the sailors break it/fix it for a couple years.

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54 minutes ago, SgtBeltfed said:

Not really feasible, Kennedy is probably way to far along, and the price tag for ripping it all back out would probably wipe the carrier program out. Enterprise might be an option, except by the time she enters service, the problems should be sorted out.

The US Navy really just has to take it's lumps at this point. They didn't take an old CV like Kitty Hawk, the old Kennedy, or the old Enterprise, install a bunch of the new gear on it, and let the sailors break it/fix it for a couple years.

True enough.

At least the ships look nice; unlike QE; which I saw when I visited the RN museum in Portsmouth; and Zumwalt; which I’d swear was canceled more because it’s so damn ugly than anything else.

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Yeah, as the first ship of the class, I can see Ford having issues that need to be solved.

We'll know for sure if they have been solved if the 2nd ship, Kennedy, also ends up taking 5 years to deploy.

 

23 hours ago, Murotsu said:

I understand one of the bigger issues in all of this is that the electric plant is undersized for the amount of power required to run all of these systems.  Some engineer(s) somewhere didn't calculate the power load that would be running under some conditions so the ship can't run all of this EM hardware at the same time.

I had thought I had read that the ship had been designed with 'powerful' reactors for future growth and needs? Now it sounds like they can use it, but don't everyone hit the switch at the same time or the reactor will scram.

Did the Engineers use Common core in their figures?

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3 hours ago, Lord_Slayer said:

Yeah, as the first ship of the class, I can see Ford having issues that need to be solved.

We'll know for sure if they have been solved if the 2nd ship, Kennedy, also ends up taking 5 years to deploy.

 

I had thought I had read that the ship had been designed with 'powerful' reactors for future growth and needs? Now it sounds like they can use it, but don't everyone hit the switch at the same time or the reactor will scram.

Did the Engineers use Common core in their figures?

It's not the reactors that are the problem as I understand it, but the Ship's Service TurboGenerators (SSTG).  US Navy ships use a 450 VAC 60 Hz electric system.  I don't know if they're using that everywhere on the Ford or not, but I suspect they are.  If so, given the power requirements of those mag systems, 450 VAC is simply far too low a voltage to be using as the weight penalty for the amperage required is going to mean huge cables and a much heavier generator or running generators in parallel to supply the necessary power.  Going to say 1000 VAC or DC + would be the way to go for those systems and I'm betting they didn't do it.

 

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9 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

It's not the reactors that are the problem as I understand it, but the Ship's Service TurboGenerators (SSTG).  US Navy ships use a 450 VAC 60 Hz electric system.  I don't know if they're using that everywhere on the Ford or not, but I suspect they are.  If so, given the power requirements of those mag systems, 450 VAC is simply far too low a voltage to be using as the weight penalty for the amperage required is going to mean huge cables and a much heavier generator or running generators in parallel to supply the necessary power.  Going to say 1000 VAC or DC + would be the way to go for those systems and I'm betting they didn't do it.

 

450 for something the size of a CV seems really low.

Would the need to rework shore power everywhere for the higher voltage be a reason for this. 

Edited by DrHolmes52

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Just now, DrHolmes52 said:

450 for something the size of a CV seems really low.

That's what the Navy uses.  Being a Chief Electrician's Mate I should know...  Trust me, I'm what you call an "expert!"

948316cb609b7b69c0c5875fe545f681.jpg

 

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3 hours ago, Lord_Slayer said:

Yeah, as the first ship of the class, I can see Ford having issues that need to be solved.

We'll know for sure if they have been solved if the 2nd ship, Kennedy, also ends up taking 5 years to deploy.

 

I had thought I had read that the ship had been designed with 'powerful' reactors for future growth and needs? Now it sounds like they can use it, but don't everyone hit the switch at the same time or the reactor will scram.

Did the Engineers use Common core in their figures?

See the source image

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1 hour ago, DrHolmes52 said:

450 for something the size of a CV seems really low.

Would the need to rework shore power everywhere for the higher voltage be a reason for this. 

That's one reason.  Another would be you'd have to add all sorts of new parts in the supply system.  Then there's some danger in systems over 600 volts with just working around them.

I'd say the major issue is likely having to run generators in parallel most of the time with a varying load on them.  Doing this requires the operator(s) to coordinate the load on the two or more generators such that they are equally loaded.  This is something of a trick to manage if you aren't used to or skilled at doing it.  What can happen, all-too-easily, is that you aren't paying attention and shift the load increasingly to one generator then "motorize" the other causing it to drop off-line followed by the other generator dropping off because it's now overloaded.

Think of it this way:  Every time you fire an EM cat, there is a huge surge of power in the electrical system for a few seconds as it operates.  Then that surge ends.  This is really hard to manage on any electrical generation system.  The generator loads up momentarily, then drops back down to steady state.  I could see lights all over the ship dim momentarily when it happens.  The only way I can think of off-hand that might mitigate this is a huge capacitor bank that stores the charge for a cat shot and then discharges it followed by a longer recharge period that evens out the surges.  Even then, its not going to be easy to keep the load balanced.

I've seen this occur a few times over my 27 years service and it's usually due to the operators not having the experience to know what to look for or they're just overworked and tired and not paying attention sufficiently.  

Edited by Murotsu

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2 hours ago, Murotsu said:

That's one reason.  Another would be you'd have to add all sorts of new parts in the supply system.  Then there's some danger in systems over 600 volts with just working around them.

I'd say the major issue is likely having to run generators in parallel most of the time with a varying load on them.  Doing this requires the operator(s) to coordinate the load on the two or more generators such that they are equally loaded.  This is something of a trick to manage if you aren't used to or skilled at doing it.  What can happen, all-too-easily, is that you aren't paying attention and shift the load increasingly to one generator then "motorize" the other causing it to drop off-line followed by the other generator dropping off because it's now overloaded.

Think of it this way:  Every time you fire an EM cat, there is a huge surge of power in the electrical system for a few seconds as it operates.  Then that surge ends.  This is really hard to manage on any electrical generation system.  The generator loads up momentarily, then drops back down to steady state.  I could see lights all over the ship dim momentarily when it happens.  The only way I can think of off-hand that might mitigate this is a huge capacitor bank that stores the charge for a cat shot and then discharges it followed by a longer recharge period that evens out the surges.  Even then, its not going to be easy to keep the load balanced.

I've seen this occur a few times over my 27 years service and it's usually due to the operators not having the experience to know what to look for or they're just overworked and tired and not paying attention sufficiently.  

Yeah, I'm in the generation business.  I figured the new catapults probably had a huge inrush load (made worse by cranking up an elevator at the same time).  I'd say they could go with a fully automated system, but that isn't something you would depend on during combat operations (I doesn't work all that well in the utility industry when things don't go exactly like the manual).

Getting and keeping good operators is a universal problem.

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3 hours ago, Murotsu said:

That's one reason.  Another would be you'd have to add all sorts of new parts in the supply system.  Then there's some danger in systems over 600 volts with just working around them.

I'd say the major issue is likely having to run generators in parallel most of the time with a varying load on them.  Doing this requires the operator(s) to coordinate the load on the two or more generators such that they are equally loaded.  This is something of a trick to manage if you aren't used to or skilled at doing it.  What can happen, all-too-easily, is that you aren't paying attention and shift the load increasingly to one generator then "motorize" the other causing it to drop off-line followed by the other generator dropping off because it's now overloaded.

Think of it this way:  Every time you fire an EM cat, there is a huge surge of power in the electrical system for a few seconds as it operates.  Then that surge ends.  This is really hard to manage on any electrical generation system.  The generator loads up momentarily, then drops back down to steady state.  I could see lights all over the ship dim momentarily when it happens.  The only way I can think of off-hand that might mitigate this is a huge capacitor bank that stores the charge for a cat shot and then discharges it followed by a longer recharge period that evens out the surges.  Even then, its not going to be easy to keep the load balanced.

I've seen this occur a few times over my 27 years service and it's usually due to the operators not having the experience to know what to look for or they're just overworked and tired and not paying attention sufficiently.  

 

On 7/22/2021 at 11:43 AM, AJTP89 said:

Seems odd to me that the last holdup is a weapon's elevator. The thing has who knows how many electronics, a nuclear power plant, and a new EM catapult system, and the biggest problem is a weapon's elevator? Not sure why we'd need to complicate something that worked in WWII but that's the government I guess.

Reading through these comments made me think what it would be like to make all these systems work.  An electrical engineer would need to recall some nasty math taught in those courses many tended to skip.  Nearly everything on the ship would require electrical power conditioners.  The high power pulses from catapults and elevators would cause reactive voltages from transformers and motors as well as high frequency voltages that would interfere with electronics. 

Storing pulse energy could be accomplished with capacitors or rotational condensers both of which would require electronics and lots of space. 

High voltage, say 12.5kV, requires very robust insulation making the cables very stiff and transformers.  A 3.8 mVA transformer cooled with oil is about 8ft cube.  A dry transformer that size would required  a room with cooling.

With low voltage, 480V, the cables would be rather large and somewhat pliable but would experience significant Lorentz forces that could damage cables or equipment and reduce reliability.

I'm retired. Not my problem this time.

 

I'm glad the low bid contractor is taking their time to get it right

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My bet on the weapons elevators, again based on my actual experience with similar systems on USN ships, is that it isn't so much the EM system to move them but rather they have whole bunch of Rube Goldberg interlocks and safety systems that were designed by some engineer who went to two years of community college in a shopping center.  I have repeatedly been jaw droppingly stunned by the crudity, backwardness, and poor design of such systems on ships.

Sometimes they're overly complex.  It's common that the components are either fragile or nearly impossible to properly align due to vibration, the service conditions (hot, humid, etc.), or other factors that clearly weren't even considered in the design.  Something might have high grade military spec connectors on it only to use a wiring that isn't designed for damp conditions attached to it.

More than once I've called and talked to engineers about why they wanted X or Y used for some purpose in design drawings for a system only to have them tell me "Well, we had to put a spec on it..." as I could clearly tell they had no idea of the alternatives to what they spec'ed.  All you can do is 

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And one hypersonic torpedo with a small yield nuke would turn it into scrap in a few seconds.

Heck. multiple hypersonic torpedos with conventional warheads hitting it from all sides would sink it.

 

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