Home » Air » Future Carriers Built to Carry Drone Fleets

Future Carriers Built to Carry Drone Fleets

by Kris Osborn on July 19, 2013

Ford IslandNavy planners have anticipated the recent historic steps forward the Navy has taken toward outfitting the decks of their carriers with fleets of unmanned drones by designing future and current carriers to support the technological advances these aircraft will present, officials said.

The U.S. Navy’s new Ford-class aircraft carriers are engineered with the ability to accommodate more carrier-launched unmanned aircraft systems similar to the X-47B that landed on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush July 10, service officials explained.

The Ford-class carriers are built with a series of technological advances compared to their predecessors —  to include a slightly larger flight deck, upgraded nuclear power plants, dual-band radar, improved landing gear and vastly increased on-board electrical capacity to include a new electromagnetic propulsion system for aircraft taking off the deck, said Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, Program Executive Officer, Carriers.

“The Ford Class will be around until about 2110. The flight deck has been designed to be bigger and have a higher sortie generation rate. The ship itself is built with three-times the electrical generating capacity than the Nimitz {Ford predecessor} class has – so it is not hard to envision that we are going to be flying unmanned aircraft off that ship,” said Moore.

Citing the recent historic touchdown of the X-47B demonstrator aircraft aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, Moore said the Ford-class carriers are engineered with a specific mind to next-generation aviation and ship-based technologies.

The Ford-class of carriers are being built with emerging technological trends in mind and the expected increase in unmanned systems and electrically-generated weapons systems.

Moore said that if you look at the kind of aircraft which initially flew on a Nimitz-class carrier when they first emerged in the 1970s, they are very different than what is flying on those carriers today.  In fact, the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will fly on the Nimitz-class carriers before they retire, he said.

“Unmanned aircraft will certainly be part of our portfolio moving forward – they will not replace manned aircraft but will play an important role.”

The USS Ford is slated to enter the water at a christening ceremony in November of this year and begin formal service by late 2016. It is the first-in-class in a planned series of next-generation Ford-class aircraft carriers designed to replace the current Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis over roughly the next 50 years.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), now nearing completion, will be followed by the second and third Ford-class carriers, the USS John. F. Kennedy (CVN 79) to enter service by 2025 — and the USS Enterprise (CVN 80), slated to enter service by 2027.

The Ford-class carriers will have four 26 megawatt electrical turbine generators, designed in part to power key systems on the ship, including dual-band phased array radar and the Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS – put on carriers to replace the current steam catapults for aircraft on the flight deck.

“On a Nimitz-class carrier, outside of the propulsion plant we use a lot of steam to run the catapults and heat the water. We made a conscious decision on the Ford class to better electrify the ship,” Moore explained.

Moore also emphasized that the electrical backbone and capacity of the Ford-class carriers will better equip the ships to accommodate directed energy weapons in the future, should they be added to the ship.

For example, it is conceivable that directed energy or laser weapons might compliment the defense systems currently in place to defend the ship such as the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System, Rolling Air Frame Missile and NATO Sea Sparrow, Moore explained.

“The Ford has huge margins of ability to generate electrical power that no other ship has,” he said.

In fact, increased automation, computer technology and electrical capacity will reduce man-power requirements on-board the ship, dramatically increasing capability and lowering life-cycle costs, said Mike Petters, President and Chief Operating Officer, Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Moore explained that the technology-inspired man-power reductions will result in as much as $4 billion in savings over the 50-year life-cycle of the ship.

Petters and Moore explained how the Ford-class carriers are designed with a slightly smaller island to allow for more deck space, thus increasing the ship’s ability to launch and recover larger numbers of aircraft.

“You have created an electrical distribution system that is going to allow for lower maintenance cost – then you have advanced arresting gear and the radars. You are really talking about a ship that has substantially more capability. The flight deck was all part of how do we get more sorties – changing the location of the footprint is all about how do you get the flight deck more efficient,” Petters said.

One analyst said that increasing the ability to project power at greater distances through the increased use of unmanned aircraft on carriers, is exactly how the Navy should be thinking about its future.

“The aircraft carrier is relevant today and it will be relevant for decades,” said Bryan McGrath, managing director at FerryBridge Group LLC, a defense consulting firm based in Easton, Md.

In particular, longer reach or operating ranges — for strike possibilities and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions – is likely to grow in importance in light of what Pentagon strategists refer to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, or A2/AD, challenges, he argued.

A2/AD is a strategic approach to current and future conflict based upon the premise that potential adversaries have increased technological capability to challenge the U.S. military’s ability to operate in certain areas in an uncontested manner – such as closer to shore.

“Sortie generation rate as a virtue will decline in importance in the years to come largely because any opponent of worth will hold us a little further off shore. Sortie generation rose in importance as we came to dominate the oceans. Now we may have a near-peer competitor, so what we really need is range from the wing – the ability to operate from further away and bring strike power,” McGrath said.

The increased sortie-generation rate capability with the Ford-class carriers is designed to increase the flexibility to launch manned and unmanned systems with greater ease and frequency, a Navy official said.

“The deck has been built to provide the air wing of the future with greater flexibility,” the official said.

Nevertheless, any efforts to increasingly configure aircraft carriers to accommodate increased ability to house and launch longer-range platforms, including manned and unmanned systems, is something McGrath would like to see more of.

“The Navy should begin thinking about designing an aircraft carrier that is devoted to the launch and recovery of unmanned aviation,” McGrath said. “It will need to do its job for 50 years, so you have to think about what you get. You get a very powerful symbol and the means for the delivery of American power. There is no substitute in our arsenal.”

Moore said the Ford-class of carriers are being built with a mind to long-term service – an approach which has, by design, engineered the ship with growth potential such that it can accommodate emerging technologies as they arise.

“Big-deck carriers are by far what we need in terms of power projection and presence. For a lot of the missions we want and the presence we have around the world, there’s nothing like it. Why are the Russians, Indians and Chinese building a carrier? Countries know that carriers bring something to the table that nothing else can bring in terms of an instrument of national power. There is a reason we build these things,” Moore added.

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{ 117 comments… read them below or add one }

blight_ July 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm

50 years is a little optimistic. Sure, we kept the USS Midway around for 47 years, but did that go very well…?

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Belesari July 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm

We kept big E for 50.

You can do it just takes funding and maintaining the vessel right. Most US carriers are built now for at least 50 years. Other ships around 30 or so.

The great thing about carriers is that they are capable of being upgraded so easily. Simply change what flies off the deck.

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blight_ July 20, 2013 at 7:35 am

I cite Midway deliberately instead of the later USS Enterprise because it was a transitional carrier. Based on the Montana-class battleships, it was built on the transition from prop to jet. It's theoretical max capacity was 137 WW2 aircraft, post-WW2 on launch it employed 100 aircraft, and with the transition to Vietnam and jet aircraft; 65.

Of course, we assume that by now, we are far better at forecasting carrier design…but by Big E->today there was less transition in carrier designs.

I'm debating where we are in aviation technology. Do we expect to go to bigger, more capable aircraft going off the flight decks, or smaller ones? CV's like the Midway are the former. I don't think we've seen the latter yet.

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Belesari July 20, 2013 at 10:47 am

Hmm……well it depends.

Really the problem is the Navy is Obsessed with Strike aircraft. There is nothing wrong with them its when they become THE ENTIRE AIR WING that the problem arises.

The hornets are gas guzzlers. Now it wouldn't be that bad But they got ride of the A-6 and the S-3. Both could operate well as refuelers as well as perform other roles the F-18 isn't suited for. Now however the F-18's are spending half their load on Massive fuel tanks and piggy backing to the targets with lighter loads of weapons But this is also wearing down the air frames at a very high rate.

So the Navy could have generally smaller aircraft IF we got over our ONE PLANE TO RULE THEM ALL! Obsession but they wont. Proof? F-35.

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tiger July 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm

The life span is based on the nuke plant & refuelings. The Nimitz class will get close to that mark.

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USS ENTERPRISE July 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Hey, Big E, and also, pretty those Nimitz class are getting up there.

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Ed C July 23, 2013 at 8:10 am

Enterprise went 51 years….and, yes, it went very well.

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Comadore July 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

CVA41 lasted that long because it was in Japan for its last service life. In 1974 we did a full dry dock overhaul, pulled both props THROUGH the flight deck, I pull the starboard catapult launch valves, replaced them and a full overhaul of both water brakes, and cylinders. Replaced and upgraded the JP aviation fuel system through the hull. Flight deck entirely nonskidded and island painted (bamboo scaffolding). All this done in three months. No unions and catapult work down by ships company. You most likely not find that anymore. Attitude change, todays PC environment and new political emasculation of the entire military has set US on a very different course.

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comadore July 23, 2013 at 8:24 am

Not the props, damn, the prop shafts!!

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comadore July 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

Still goofed the rudder shafts. Too much in a hurry….

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blight_ July 23, 2013 at 8:31 am

I suspect that this would never get done on the CVN's. The Navy is still squeamish about some things.

Of course, it's necessary skills for things like damage control-we can't guarantee a damage-free future where one can stroll back to San Diego for repairs.

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Weson Ribig July 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Why not put more lighting fast direct energy weapon on each carrier ? And a drone that can fly at mach 5 which is also more stealthy .

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J4rh34d July 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Mach 5 and stealth are contradictory. The glowing air in the wake of a Mach 5 anything would be very visible for hundreds of miles with IR detectors.

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Kole July 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Yeah that would be like trying to hide in a blacked-out car at night under a streetlight… lol

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Rest Pal July 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Why not spend a little money on creating a real Harry Potter so that he can create your fancy toys with a few flips of the wand.

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USS ENTERPRISE July 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm

2110? SERIOUS return in terms of investment of money. By then, well, I mean, I doubt even drones will be considered working weapons systems.

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Donny July 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

That's what I'm saying. In 50 years we will already be on something else. But what are they really planning 2110. That Crazy. I would guess you have to get a good amount of time out of them because for the way they are powered.

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Lance July 19, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Lame the idiots want no man in charge. no pilots for political expediency. Skynet is next LOL

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Dr. Horrible July 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

huh?

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tiger July 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Cylons….

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Lance July 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Whats the matter your drone lovers cant stand a joke. Get a sense of humor and leave your machines behind.

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Thomas July 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Is Russia building carriers? I don't think so.

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Thunder350 July 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

The boogeyman China is.

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tiger July 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

However the real threat is in cyberspace not at sea. Their hackers are the weapon you should worry about. But many here have some weird dream of Midway 2.0 with the PLAN.

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Douglas July 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

They have built some in the past but it is not important if they build them or not. We don't base our national security on what the Russians are doing only.

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Pete Bensen July 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

Russia IS building carriers. They have FOUR on the drawing boards. They will be equipped with high performance 5th generation fighters. BTW, Russia doesn't depend on aircraft carriers because air bases in the Russian Federation extend to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Russian short-range fighters can reach Western Europe, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Alaska, and Canada, unrefueled.

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blight_ July 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

The carriers are French Mistrals. Once they get their feet wet on contemporary shipbuilding, they'll build the navy Peter the Great lusted for.

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tiger July 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm
blight_ July 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

"The Pacific force Never leaves port much & can never challenge the the 7th fleet or JMSDF"

Precisely, because they don't have the ships. You build ships when you want to have a meaningful force, and you don't bother sortieing until you have it.

The Baltic, Black and Northern Fleets retain their traditional challenges. They aren't useful for power projection, but must still be defended from attack.

hibeam July 19, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Are we working on arrogant pilot cyborgs to strut around below deck. Wouldn't be the same without them.

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Belesari July 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

You can be my wing man any time Unit-774882199999918232.377BCAABC0!

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Ricky July 20, 2013 at 1:50 am

I wonder if the increase of robotics is because of China's population. in case of War, it would be a great strategy against them. What do you think?

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Rest Pal July 20, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Which country is better equipped to cheaply mass-produce robotics, China or US?

Which country is better equipped to program robots, China or US?

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USS ENTERPRISE July 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Which country is currently flying drones off their own carrier, that which can, by the way, launch a higher sortie?

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Rest Pal July 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

No country is currently doing that. And if you wanted to BS about the US test flights, write this down on a piece of paper and stick it to your computer screen – "they are TEST flights."

More to the point, even if the US can launch drones from the carriers, it doesn't matter in a real war against a properly armed foe, because most US navy vessels in the theater won't be floating for more than 40 minutes once the supersonic anti-ship missiles swarm in.

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hunter76 July 20, 2013 at 7:15 am

A big deck remains a big target. The loss of a big carrier would mean the loss of a medium-sized war as US has been fond of waging in recent decades (public/congressional revulsion would force withdrawal from the conflict). In a big war, it would be a strategic loss, forcing major retrenchment.

The solution would be smaller carriers, or even specialized drone launcher/recoverer ships. We gave up the battleship. We need to shift paradigm and give up both the super carrier and manned combat planes.

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blight_ July 20, 2013 at 7:30 am

Sure, but is a carrier any smaller going to be able to sustain round-the-clock bombing or the air dominance missions required of the Navy?

Look at the mini-carriers fielded by everyone else (short of the French "medium carrier"). Can they do sustained ops based on what's embarked?

A bigger carrier would just be yeech; and as you put it, a massive target.

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hunter76 July 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

You can make up for the big ship with more smaller ones. Besides, a specialized "drone ship" could carry a surprising number of drones. Drones will be significantly smaller than their manned counterparts. Maintenance of the aircraft will be much less, with the less systems and lower standards because they don't need to be pilot-safe. For parking, designers need only to look at modern automated warehousing operations. Decks will be lower because the drones are essentially tailless. Crew to aircraft ratios much, much lower.

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Belesari July 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

How is maintenance on a drone aircraft going to be less? Its the same tech with a very complex computer system. Not only that add in all the other crap the carrier will be stocked full with computer techs.

You also because its going to be a awhile before a drone is capable of engaging and destroying a manned modern air superiority fighter in combat. The fantasy that they will be cheaper is just that. Any aircraft that is supposed to fly like a manned strike aircraft and deliver the load is going to be build and designed much like one meaning same systems over all and same cost.

Then add in the massively over worked crews and you get dead people shitty ships and guess what congress and their pet admirals will say?

"Well seems you've done so well you don't need the 20 medium sized carriers we were getting just replace the ones we have ship to ship!"

It has happened in every weapons system. And the damage its done shows.

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tiger July 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Why would it be a "While before drone is capable of engaging and destroying a manned modern air superiority fighter in combat?"

We already convert F-4's into QF-4 drones. The First QF-16's are already flying.

EW3 July 20, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Maintenance is likely where the UAVs will work best.

Do we really need to fly a UAV everyday while at sea to keep up "pilot" proficiency. ? Or can we store 20 or 40 of them below decks like we do TLAMs ? Only need to run PM checks until they are needed. We only pull these out when we need to surge for attack.

During normal ops, we can use UAVs to supplement manned vehicles as tankers or ISR resources.

blight_ July 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

The difference between drone and UAV is trading life support for teleoperation equipment. You still need radar, turbofans, weapons, landing gear, tailhook, fly-by-wire. The limitations of engines and fuel economy will be imposed on manned or unmanned platforms: to get the same range, you will still need a fuel tank of about the same size as its manned equivalent, assuming that aerodynamics, weight etc are equal. Lowering standards of hardware because they don't have to be "pilot-safe" is interesting, but it still needs to be safe enough to land and not lose too many. A carrier cannot afford attrition of air wings, manned or unmanned. A carrier that runs out of "lower standard" UAV's is just a floating target.

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Radicus July 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

You need far less weight. No pilot, no life support, and no limitations on turn or acceleration g-forces. Traditional pilots will be shot out of the sky in seconds by drones. There is no contest, and drones will be able to travel much further and maneuver far better. There won't be any combat pilots in 15 years.

tiger July 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

The America Class LHA's is more the example of something smaller to work with.

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blight_ July 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm

LHA-6 is about 2/3rds the length and a shade less than half the tonnage, and on a good day will carry 20 F-35B's and 2 helicopters.

Growlers, Hawkeyes, Greyhounds, Super Bugs and Lightning-C need not apply.

Checking the Nim, at 106,000 tons….something like 80, 90 aircraft? And I imagine, with a comensurate increase in internal stores to carry munitions and fuel to drop hell on the enemy as long as it takes.

If two Americas was half the cost of a CVN it might be worth thinking about in cost grounds. But examining the amount of aircraft that can be launched, in addition to their type, plus fuel and stores to keep them going…for a given amount of ship, it makes sense to scale up.

That said, mini-carriers make sense if you intend to build en masse from multiple shipyards that can crank them out like Kaiser's escort carriers, which easily outnumbered the larger CV's. But considering how the costs of building even LHA-6 and the new CVN's have ballooned; and the severe paucity of the American shipbuilding industry, we can only embark on so many building projects at a time. Telling NNS to build smaller ships is that deliver less performance and capability per dollar doesn't make a lot of sense. Telling HII to build mini-carriers is entirely possible, but raises the spectre of competing with other naval needs. I think the Navy should remain open to the idea, but if you don't build enough mini-carriers, you can't realize the cost savings of smaller ships…just smaller ships.

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PolicyWonk July 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm

There are many defense analysts who agree with you, and believe the navy would be far better off building more LHA-6 sized carriers, LHD's, and have more ARG's instead of the current fleet structure (which is designed for large blue water/cold war style battles).

Smaller carriers cost a lot less money, make far less tempting targets, and give you far better coverage.

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Tad July 20, 2013 at 9:37 am

"The Ford Class will be around until about 2110."
Hahahahahaha! If this guy can predict what type of naval vessel will be used in 2110 then I think he missed his calling. He should've been a fortune teller.

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Rest Pal July 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm

he is doing fortune telling right now.

he is not good at it, but the law currently doesnt cover license requirement in this area.

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blight_ July 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Agreed.

I'm sure a battleship guys in the 1900's would've anticipated longer-ranged guns and Jackie Fisher's dreadnaughts, but aircraft carriers by 1950 would be a stretch, let alone VLS tubes full of TLAM, standard missiles and perhaps someday, Harpoon or newer anti-ship missiles. Of course, in ten or fifteen years naval aviation could be seen as inevitable, but in turn jet engines would be seen as science fiction. Then once that is achieved, we move on to fly-by-wire jets that can fly to the point of human unconsciousness, fire off-bore missiles guided by turning the helmet, and radar that would've put Chain Home to shame.

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Pete Bensen July 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

The aircraft carrier has been considered obsolete or indefensible since the 1930's. But then again, they also predicted we would have flying cars by the 1960's. American aircraft carriers are EXTEMELY difficult to sink. Short of a direct hit from a nuclear-tipped torpedo, it will be floating 50 years hence.

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blight_ July 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

The last carrier SINKEX was the oldish USS America. The results are likely very much classified. I find it unlikely that nuclear weapons were required for the job

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Snafuperman July 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hardly. There are 10-11 carriers to replace, one every five years. The last carrier, launched in about 50 years will last 50 years, hence the last ship will be retired around 2110. Do the math.

That being said, the last carrier produced will be considerably different than the Ford right now, and will change over its lifetime also, but it's still a Ford class ship.

One other thought. Design study after design study has shown that two LHA/LHD harrier carriers that are roughly half the tonnage of a CVN do not carry anywhere near the same number of aircraft, weapons, fuel, etc, cannot turn anywhere near the same number of sorties, can't land COD aircraft for rapid resupply, etc. Also, look at the manpower of three or four LHA/LHDs vs. the Ford because that's where the cost is. That's why the Ford's cost more – we wisely invested in more upfront technology to save life-cycle costs over the long run. Repeatedly, the Navy has come to the conclusion that LHA/LHDs are not cost-effective replacements for the CVN.

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Radicus July 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Absolutely ridiculous. We won't be deploying aircraft carriers in 50 years any more than we would be building cavalry wagons for WWII.
Large, heavy weapons such as aircraft carriers are doomed and far before 2100 unless the world falls back 50 years. Change is accelerating, but military planning is not, due to the heavy influence of the current Military-Industrial complex. Change will be forced on us by "upstart" countries that have no legacy liabilities and politics holding them back.

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hibeam July 20, 2013 at 10:13 am

In the old days it was hard to find the carriers. That is not the case anymore. Carriers are great when you are slapping around a flyweight like Iran, but against a serious contender like China Carriers are simply too many eggs in one big basket.

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Belesari July 20, 2013 at 10:56 am

No not really. They are still tough to find in the blue and then they are guarded by multiple over lapping weapons and defensive systems. From subs to DDG's with reguardless of what you've heard have been preparing for the chinese missile systems for a long time because the russians build basically the same thing.

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Thunder350 July 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

The fleets are rather easy to find with modern technology from the likes of Russia or China. And China has invested heavily in access denial weapons, including their "carrier killer" missile that's been designed to bypass those layers of defenses and strike a crippling blow against a carrier. It's not as impossible, or even "difficult" to pull off as some people are trying to claim.

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Ricky July 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

That would be good for done use, have them circle the surroundings as like beacons. Maybe not combat ready, but could at least be used as a big early radar/defence system.

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Jason July 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

carrier killer missile is not a threat like most make it out to be. It's never been truly tested against a sophisticated defense and targeting system

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Pete Bensen July 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

We recently got satellite imagery of China's new aircraft carrier at sea. BY LUCK. Despite what they tell you in the movies, individual ships, even carriers are VERY difficult to locate precisely. And immensely more difficult to TARGET. In the amount of time it takes to locate a carrier, aim a missile, and get a missile there, an American aircraft carrier can be 100 miles away.

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blight_ July 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm

It's a big ocean, and if we get serious with ASAT, you can't hide a satellite.

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USS ENTERPRISE July 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Agreed. Also, its important to note that China, if it wanted to find a US carrier, would need to do what the US and Japan did back in WWII; send out search planes. Won't be easy to do with F-18's holding a secure CAP around a carrier……..

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jc lopez July 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm

If you did some research, Carriers do not sail alone. There is always a complimentary of multiple destroyers, forward frigates with naval helicopters, & nuclear submarines protecting it. You don't mess around with American Carriers Groups.

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Nicky July 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I can see the US Navy using UAV's for Comms rely, ISR and possibly surgical strike missions.

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Pete Bensen July 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm

IMO they are also well-suited for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions.

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sickunclesam July 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm

It would seem to me that unmanned drones would very susceptible to electronic warfare and jamming. Kind of like the recent case of the Iranians hacking and then stealing one of our most advanced drones. You don't have to worry about that with a pilot.

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Honsu July 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

You believe their bluster? The Iranians did not pull some kind of crazy hacking it simply crashed on a spy mission because we are still working out the kinks in the technology.

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sickunclesam July 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I don't remember anybody from our side denying what had happened so that right there is pretty telling to me (and trust me they would definitely do it to protect their funding). Even if they had there is no denying that any form of electronic communications (including communicating with drones) is highly susceptible to electronic warfare. You are right about one thing we are still working out the kinks, including how to securely communicate with the drones so this doesn't happen again.

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Radicus July 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Actually, humans are far more susceptible… to particle radiation, to sudden acceleration, to microwaves, to lasers, not to mention fatigue, lack of oxygen, and human error… and now, to gps jamming, You don't have to worry about that so much with a drone (especially when it costs 1% of the piloted plane).

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Pete Bensen July 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Remotely controlled drones are susceptible to jamming and EW. Autonomous UAV's, flown by their own computers are much less vulnerable. BTW, Iran hacked, jammed, and physically forced a relatively obsolete drone to crash-land. They in effect, overpowered it's antennas and used a manned aircraft to force it into a gradual descent or an elongated slowing turn.

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JohnnyRanger July 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Source?

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EX Squid July 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Hmm the Navy is changing since my days. The Russians had problems with building carriers in the past, the Chinese bought one of the junk carries and it is already out dated by decades. US Navy is the best navy in the world.

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tiger July 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm
tiger July 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm
blight_ July 23, 2013 at 8:35 am

Plus the rumors about maintenance and readiness.

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@HarryInventor July 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

This is going to be an excellent idea… right up until the moment some bright European invents a 100kn Unmanned Combat Sub-aquatic Vehicle with a 1000nm range, a semi-fluid hull and the ability to carry conventional anti-ship weapons close enough to turn the uss ford into a war grave and a future interesting deep dive destination in the same day!

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, usa!
The last time you tried that "…the future's so bright we gotta wear shades and we is simply unbeatable…" self-aggrandizement, the Japanese ate your lunch and spat it back at you.

Haven't you learned to 'expect the unexpected' yet, usa?

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Jason July 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

the US is about 10-20 years ahead of Europe in most Naval tech

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Rest Pal July 22, 2013 at 11:20 pm

False information. They are about the same. Moreover, it doesn't really matter much in a real war. You should read about history of warfare, starting with the Korean War.

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Radicus July 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm

How does that matter? A railgun on a speedboat would take this carrier out.

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blight_ July 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Indeed, that's why it's good Iran hasn't focused on railguns yet.

The starship Enterprise could take out the Earth's armed forces in a jiff

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USS ENTERPRISE July 27, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Remember what happened to that F-104? Boy…..

blight_ July 31, 2013 at 10:59 am

Your Captain Nemo is showing

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hibeam July 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Makes me wonder what the next Tailhook Scandal will look like.

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Snafuperman July 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm

"Bede bede, I'm not guilty Buck…"

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Rob C. July 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm

The article sounds like their trying to justify continued construction of Ford Class Nuclear-Powered Aircraft carries vs a neutral piece.

Its touting the capacity and abilities of the design, which has been already stated in the past. Nothing new there. I guess its necessary with this uncertain financial situation the US is in. Specially with US Congress.

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blight_ July 23, 2013 at 8:33 am

"Brought to you by Newport News Shipbuilding"

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Ken Badoian July 23, 2013 at 5:29 am

They are going to have improved landing gear? Could the PR genius who penned the article mean approved arresting gear. Just asking. Black shoe MMCS(SW) USN Ret.

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blight_ July 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm

This article should be reversed.

Future carriers, projected to last to 2110 are the baseline that drone designers should design for.

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Radicus July 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Why limit your designs to an obsolete concept like the aircraft carrier?

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blight_ July 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm

At the moment, there are few superior designs. Ships are still the most cost-effective way of delivering 90 aircraft to a destination. An aircraft could probably carry a fraction of the parasite aircraft, and the parasite aircraft will always be smaller, shorter-ranged, lower-performing than anything launched from land or an large ship.

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PolicyWonk July 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Future Carriers Built to Carry Drone Fleets
====================================
We can safely file this article under the "department of the blatantly obvious".

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rivera July 23, 2013 at 8:19 pm

THERE ISN'T A WEAPON OR WEAPONS SYSTEM BUILT OR WILL BE BUILT, THAT WASN'T BUILT IN FEAR TO COMBAT FEAR. THE SIZE OF THE CARRIER IS COMMENSURATE WITH THE SIZE OF UNCLE SAM'S FEAR, AND UNCLE SAM'S FEAR KNOWS NO END. AS LONG AS PEOPLE SURRENDER THEIR COURAGE, TO GUTLESS POLITICIANS WE WILL ALWAYS LIVE IN FEAR, REGARDLESS OF THE SIZE AND TECHNICAL ABILITIES OF ANY WEAPONS SYSTEMS THAT ARE PRODUCED.

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sharkey July 24, 2013 at 1:08 am

The problem with a discussion about this ship is the fact that no one except a trained nuclear power engineer can get their heads around the vast amount of power this ship will be able to supply. We are designing and building into this vessel enough electrical power generation capacity (which can also be expanded with reactor core development) to absorb and make operational future system designs. An example we can see now is the electromagnetic gun which uses only electrical power. What will be developed in the future 90 to 100 years? At least this vessel will be there to power it.

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Andy July 26, 2013 at 8:06 am

Targets. Those of experience in the submarine community know how easy it is to target and launch multiple torpedo attacks. The Russians especially know this and are concentrating on building modern attack submarines that launch cruise missiles, torpedoes in large numbers, Antisubmarine aircraft were a big joke in their capabilities to even find us during games, Surface ships were fun. Building these money pits without solving these other problems is a huge mistake when we could develope more advanced systems in large numbers with technological superiority.

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sharkey July 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I concur. I just got another response and I will try to post it as well as an answer to it. To Wit: "In 15 years there won't be any live pilots flying." (I don't agree and I will state why in my response). One item which bears scrutiny is the rapid development of UUAV's which could make the difference altogether. Unmanned, underwater, autonomous vehicles will make a sea change in defense and/or intelligence gathering, especially in littoral environs. We still must address EMP's, satellite protection systems, rapid deep diving platforms and what will likely be the uses of the Ford reactor plant capabilities in the future.

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Donnie July 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

When we can thread a needle from space , who needs large aircraft carriers ! Rockets & missiles & lasers are what's next !

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Radicus July 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm

We are always training and building for the last war, and that war will not come again.
The large carrier is a doomed concept, which, like the Joint Strike Fighter, will be obsolete before it is operational.

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sharkey July 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Someone asked for a source. I do not know which one of you but look at publications: Naval Submarine League, Institute Proceedings and I will try to dredge up a few more.

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sharkey July 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm

sharkey again. Try the USSVI.

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BMC(SW) Ret. July 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

It's always interesting after reading one of these articles to read the comments of all the people who believe they have all the answers. Kind of makes me wonder why DoD hasn't recalled all of you military geniuses to solve the other problems like how are we going to keep building carriers when we can't afford to pay or keep our military manned?

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sharkey July 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Boats
Genius? No. Concerned knowledgable veterans and citizens Yes. The deficit is being reversed as it was before 9/11 with surpluses paying it down. Sequestration is/was a desperation measure and may soon disappear. So the discussion is whether the Ford carriers are worth the investment and if are defensible, especially in the future. No one knows for sure but the way the power plants are designed they will be able to power up a Hell of a lot of current, developing and future technology. We must develop defenses against EMP's, Neutron Bombs, Satellite destruction and still have accurate aggressive offensive capabilities. There may be a 200 mph torpedo out there if not now…soon.

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blight_ July 31, 2013 at 10:58 am

"There may be a 200 mph torpedo out there if not now…soon."

Shkval is faster than that

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xarkey July 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Shkval. Thanks for the spelling as I have struggled with that for 13 years. Faster? Possibly but only in a straight line. Good enough to take out a fleet or a city. Thus, the need to develop underwater stealth, decoys, "phantom" assets, etc. Also what about those EMP's, neutron bombs and satellite destruction weapons?

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Mutantone July 31, 2013 at 7:55 am

Why not submarine carriers that only surface to launch and recover no need for large crews like the olden days of actually present "piloted" aircraft when you can station the pilots anywhere i the world to remotely fly the drones and it can be a much smaller crew to arm and recover the drones than the current system of flights, after all how many drones does it take to replace a carrier based action? that is the real question

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blight_ July 31, 2013 at 10:58 am

"Large crews" have nothing to do with manned aircraft. It's the humans that refuel, rearm and repair the aircraft, plus operate a giant ship. A CVN with drones that still used humans to refuel and rearm aircraft would still have a fairly large crew.

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xarkey July 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm

After re-reading all the above about carriers and attempting to inject some "future" thinking into it, I still wonder why no one is looking at the fact that below the surface of the 70% (water vs land) there is an enormous amount of 3 dimensional space in which to operate an entire fleet. Currently we operate FBM's, SSN's and other systems which we all do not know about. But just think about the fact that the oceans average around 8000 feet depth. That is a lot of space into which a fleet can disappear, surface as necessary and respond. Even a large scale submersible could do so. I reiterate. We must develop protection from EMP, Neutron Bombs and MIRV weaponry. At my age, (considerable), I cannot imagine what else is out there under development or has even already been deployed.

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xarkey July 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Are there no techies out there? I have attempted to steer the conversation to the undersea venue where nearly all future conflicts, spying, commerce and passive defense systems will live. I also made note of the enormous amount of power the Ford will be able to generate with its current 50 year designed plant and that as nuclear plant technology develops (Breeder Reactors for instance) the Ford could be in service far beyond its 50 year planned service. Remember that the 70% of the earth covered by water averages 8000 feet of depth. That is a lot of 360 degree spherically shaped environment for any enemy to have to monitor. I believe carriers will move underwater sometime and that directed energy weapons will supersede bombs and bullets. ie Railguns and underwater lasers which are currently only used for line of site communications. Put that reactor's power behind those kinds of weapons and we should be able to stay ahead in the defense arena.

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RCDC August 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Don't rely on it too much on major conflict. Russia and China have electronic jammers that could disable its reliability. We should know its effectiveness and weakness and enhancement before we can use it as major defense material.

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j. mcatee August 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

Drones = Spending less money on worthless officers!

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Don March 19, 2014 at 12:41 pm

So, We should start building Drones that carry drones right?

Automated Aircraft Carrier that's controlled from home.
Or more like a Submersible Drone Carrier. NOW We're talkin!

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blight_ July 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

Dare I ask if the UAV pilots will be training on simulators everyday, at which point someone will ask, why not train pilots everyday on simulators while underway?

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EW3 July 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

In the case of the X-47B, I'm not sure there are "pilots" even in the traditional UAV sense.

Since it's autonomous it's more like it needs a flight leader on the carrier (or some shore base) deciding what operational tasks it needs to do.

If you average 1 command every 5 minutes I'd be surprised. Just tell it go to lat xx.xxxxx, lon yy.yyyyy, alt zzzzz. That command may take an hour to complete. The only person who might be busy is the "backseater" (aka sensor operator) .

For real pilots, simulators are fine, but they don't create the pucker factor that a real launch and recovery does. ;)

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blight_ July 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm

So the Russians have twelve spy sats that change orbit in real time to follow every carrier around? And presumably the IR/SAR to do tracking at night? Plus the gators, and presumably the movements of the strategic bomber force, plus those dedicated to scanning the missile silo fields for the telltale discharges of nuclear launches.

I imagine in the old days, you detailed a submarine to quietly tail the Navy's carriers…

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Pete Bensen July 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

QF-4's are TARGET drones. They are EASILY shot down, and can only conduct rudimentary evasion tactics. Incapable of distinguishing between friend or foe, incapable of flying independently, incapable of utilizing complex weapon, radar, or IR systems, all they can do without human input is fall from the sky and crash. In recent months 2 have crashed in Florida, all by themselves.

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tiger July 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm
tiger July 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm

They also face travel in the Sea of Japan Or the the Northern route past our forces in Alaska. Other than the Arctic Ocean, Why even worry about the Russians? As long as they keep sending tennis playing blondes & buying crappy NBA teams. I'm not too fearful of the Bear today. They are behind some big fences……….

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USS ENTERPRISE July 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm

You can't get exact coordinates; and even if you could, the site doesn't update THAT quickly. You need some pretty precise locations to be able to hit a target……….

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blight_ July 23, 2013 at 8:33 am

It's peacetime, and it's not like their ships are any harder to find.

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