National Security

U.S. Navy’s New $13B Warship Still Not Ready for Combat

The USS Gerald R. Ford was projected to join fleet in 2014

U.S. Navy sailors with family in front of the USS Gerald R. Ford for the christening of the ship in Newport News, Va., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 / AP

The U.S. Navy’s newest $13 billion aircraft carrier is still not ready for combat because of mechanical delays that have already put it two years behind schedule, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

The USS Gerald R. Ford was supposed to be ready to fight by this September, but Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, said in a June 28 memo that the warship had ongoing launch and recovery problems, CNN reported Monday.

The Navy said the ship’s delivery to the fleet may be pushed to 2017 as the nuclear powered aircraft carrier "continues to struggle launching and recovering aircraft, moving onboard munitions, conducting air traffic control, and with ship self-defense."

Gilmore said the four systems "affect major areas of flight operations" and would considerably restrict the warship’s ability to carry out combat operations.

The warship is the most expensive aircraft carrier in U.S. history. Gilmore said fixing the problems with the USS Gerald R. Ford would likely require a redesign of the carrier’s aircraft launch and recovery systems, resulting in yet another delay. The ship was initially expected to join the fleet in September 2014.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said earlier this month that the warship’s latest delay was "unacceptable" and "entirely avoidable."

"The Ford-class program is a case study in why our acquisition system must be reformed—unrealistic business cases, poor cost estimates, new systems rushed to production, concurrent design and construction, and problems testing systems to demonstrate promised capability," McCain said in a statement.

He said taxpayers deserve to know the extent that developmental risk remains in the Navy’s program after more than $2.3 billion in cost overruns have increased the warship’s tab to $13 billion.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first new aircraft carrier designed in 40 years, and incorporates new technology that will enhance the Navy’s combat readiness. It is the first of three Ford-class carriers the Navy has ordered, which are expected to cost about $42 billion altogether.