NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – A Navy official on Monday gave updates on the production of the Ford-class aircraft carriers, noting CVN-79 is over 50 percent executed and will be launched early.
Capt. Philip Malone, program manager, for CVN 79/80/81 within Program Executive office (PEO) Aircraft Carriers, said the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) is currently about 91 percent built during a briefing at the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space Expo.
He added the program has executed 57 percent of the total ship progress by March from the detail design and construction contract.
The carriers are built by Hunting Ingalls Industries [HII].
Malone said CVN-79 is now in the second half of construction and is “on track” to land and integrate the island into the hull on May 29. The ship is then set to launch into the water in November 2019.
He highlighted this is about 2.5 to 3 months earlier than the initial build plan.
By getting the ship in the water earlier, the Navy can move on to waterborne installation and testing and expects the primary or Phase I acceptance in June 2022.
CVN-79 uniquely has a two-stage delivery plan that Malone said was designed and approved in 2014 to get the ship to the Navy faster to replace the retiring USS Nimitz (CVN-68). This production schedule aims “to maximize the reduction obsolescence in our topside systems, to align to replace the 68 within the battle force,” and to allow for the development and installation of the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR).
Under this two-stage delivery plan the hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) construction will finish in mid FY 2022, culminating in the Phase I acceptance. Phase I covers building the basic ship and installing full propulsion capability, core systems for safe navigation, and the aircraft launch and recovery equipment needed to demonstrate the flight deck.
Malone said by June 2022 “pretty much 95% of the ship, from an investment standpoint, is already done.” Phase II will then finish the last five percent, which installs other systems and the latest technology.
After the June 2022 acceptance, the Kennedy will undergo a nine-month post-delivery shakedown, focused on making sure the equipment works properly, training the crew, and getting through some certifications.
Next Phase II begins in March 2023 with an 18 months post-shakedown availability (PSA)/Selective Restricted Availability (SRA). This phase will finish new construction of systems like the EASR, procure and install electronics at the latest time available, and preempt required obsolescence management work in the first planned incremental availability (PIA).
Phase II then ends September 2024 and the ship undergoes more preparations before it joins the deployment rotation. CVN-79 will undergo a set of sea trials, post-delivery test and trials (PDT&T) events, special trials, additional assessments, and 14 months of workups.
The Nimitz is scheduled to be inactivated in FY 2025, just as CVN-79 enters workups. The Kennedy will then enter deployment rotation as the Nimitz’s replacement in late FY 2026 and deploy in FY 2027.
Malone also explained the schedule for the two-carrier buy ships of the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80) and unnamed CVN-81. The Navy previously awarded the advance procurement contract and initial long lead time material contracts for CVN-80 in May 2016 and in January 2017 awarded an advance fabrication contract.
More recently, the Navy awarded the detail design and construction award for both ships at once in January. Malone said HII will lay the keel of CVN-80 in February 2022, launch the carrier in November 2025, lay the keel of CVN-81 in January 2026, deliver CVN-80 in March 2028, launch CVN-81 in October 2029, and deliver CVN-81 in February 2032.
While the company is not building the ships at the same time, he boasted of the benefits to industry for long-term planning stability. This two-carrier plan provides economic stability to about 130,000 workers, increases the vendor base flexibility, and levels the load volume while decreasing prices for parts.
Malone said this also helps HII de-conflict and de-risk overlapping work among carriers, Virginia-class attack submarines, and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
He boasted the predicted improvements in production labor hours between CVN-79 and -81 amount to an equivalent 82 percent learning curve. Malone also said 95 percent of CVN-80 and -81 will be design reproductions, with the remainder being changes in electronics.