The US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier just finished having its keel laid and is expected to begin sea trials in 2013 for 2 yrs. upon completing those it will join the active fleet in 2015. If you have read this blog for any length of time you have probably heard me talk about how the navy needs to rethink putting all those resources into one ship that is fast becoming ever more vulnerable. I imagine the US Navy would answer that challenge by saying that the fact the US carrier fleet is more vulnerable now is the exact reason why the Ford is needed so bad. For the Ford is not just a new ship but the first in a new class of aircraft carrier designed to be more survivable and efficient at the same time. This is accomplished by several improvements. First, the Ford comes with a new radar designed to be able detect even the most advanced anti-ship cruise missile, think China’s carrier killer missile. Second, this new radar provides targeting data for the navy’s newest anti-missile missile, the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile or ESSM. The combination of the new radar and missile is supposed to make the Ford nearly impervious to cruise missiles. To compliment the radar and missile upgrades the Ford will be designed to give off a significantly reduced radar signature making it harder for missiles to lock on. Along with those upgrades the Ford will be fitted with an advanced nuclear reactor which is supposed to offer more power. The Ford will also be the first aircraft carrier to get rid of steam catapults for launching aircraft in favor of an electro magnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS. Last but not least, the Ford with all this new whiz bang technology will be able to reduce its crew size by several hundred people over Nimitz class carriers it will replace. All of the above is slated to cost America about $12,000,000,000. So the question then becomes can we afford the Gerald R. Ford or can we afford to be without it? Link to story below.