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Video Above: Navy Next-Gen DDG(X) Destroyer to Fight to 2060

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

With China now already making progress on its third aircraft carrier and plans to build several more as quickly as possible, the US Navy is taking steps to ensure it stays on track with production and delivery of its emerging fleet of Ford-class aircraft carriers.

China's Liaoning & Shandong Aircraft Carriers

China now operates two aircraft carriers, the Soviet-built Liaoning and its first indigenously-built carrier called the Shandong. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has already conducted dual-carrier patrols and power-projection drills operating both of these together, while also working to accelerate construction of a third carrier. 

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. PLA Photo

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. PLA Photo

China is known to have a large industrial base and shipbuilding capacity which it is leveraging to build its own fleet of carriers. The third Chinese carrier does not use a “ski-jump” kind of incline or curved take-off but rather appears designed to mirror the US Navy’s USS Ford with a flat carrier deck.

US Ford-class Carriers

While the US Navy operates a much larger carrier fleet and therefore operates with a much greater ability to project global power when compared with China, the service and Pentagon leadership are taking critical steps to ensure continued efficient production of its growing fleet of new Ford-class carriers. 

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The Ford class introduces an entire suite of paradigm-changing technologies specific to Aircraft Carrier Wing power projection, and the Navy very much wants to stay on course with on-time, successful deliveries of its much needed new fleet of carriers.

A graphic showing what the future USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 80) is expected to look like when she joins the fleet after 2025. The aircraft are F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet strike fighters, E-2D Hawkeye electronic warfare planes, and an unmanned strike jet modeled on the X-47B sitting on the No. 4 catapult.

A graphic showing what the future USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 80) is expected to look like when she joins the fleet after 2025. The aircraft are F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet strike fighters, E-2D Hawkeye electronic warfare planes, and an unmanned strike jet modeled on the X-47B sitting on the No. 4 catapult.

The Navy and its many shipbuilding industry partners have been pursuing a “two-ship” buy strategy to consolidate funding and acquisition practices for two separate carriers with one buy. 

The service already used the “block-buy” technique with the third and forth Ford-class carriers called CVN 80 and CVN 81. This strategy helped consolidate and streamline the purchase and delivery of crucial supplies and what’s called “long-lead items,” or key elements of the ship which need to be acquired in advance of construction.

The concept of a two-ship “block buy,” put into effect already for two carriers, spread out over 8 years buy synergizes the acquisition of crucially needed material to ensure there are sufficient supplies able to accommodate an ambitious ship-building schedule.

“We hope that when we get to the 2024 budget, we start getting the same funding for CVN 82 and CVN 83 as a block buy with advanced planning funds to help suppliers buy materials in advance. Some of these are products that are needed earlier in the developmental cycle,” Richard Giannini, CEO Milwaukee Valve Company and Chairman of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition, told TNI in an interview.

The ACIBC group exists to help marshall support for a much-needed robust production capacity necessary to sustain successful acquisition and modernization of the carrier fleet. ACIBC includes as many as 2,000 individual suppliers spread across 45 US states, a robust skilled workforce which needs to be maintained and replenished as needed, Giannini said. The group of suppliers constitutes billions of dollars worth of crucially needed business required to construct the new carriers. Part of this include efforts to find, train and retain highly skilled machinists and workers capable of support aircraft carrier construction

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization