The lead ship in the Navy’s new generation of supercarriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is about to begin its first deployment. The Navy expects to buy ten Ford-class carriers, the last of which will not exit the fleet until 2105. The class incorporates two dozen major new technologies not available when the previous Nimitz class was conceived, making the new generation more lethal, survivable, and versatile than what came before. So now the challenge is to identify the optimal strategy for building what looks to be a very capable class of warships. The strategy favored by the Navy and industry is to contract for two carriers at a time, with three years of advance funding for long-lead items needed on each carrier (like reactors), with a new ship begun every four years. This “2-3-4 strategy” will minimize the cost of constructing each carrier by efficiently utilizing a skilled workforce and allowing suppliers to plan ahead. It will save billions of dollars compared with buying each carrier separately, as the Navy has already demonstrated in its two-ship buy of the third and fourth carriers in the Ford class. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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