Doubts over whether newest US aircraft carrier can defend itself
A $13 billion aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is adding to the Pentagon’s worries after a new assessment noted that the vessel is “yet to demonstrate that it can effectively” defend itself against anti-ship missiles and other threats.
The report, obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its release, details that the ship’s missile interceptors, radar, and data-dissemination systems performed inconsistently under test conditions, limiting the vessel’s capacity to destroy incoming and hostile weapons.
The Pentagon’s testing office said that an assessment of key systems “identified several design shortfalls not previously discovered,” adding that the navy had already highlighted areas where the vessel, and its three sister ships, could be enhanced to improve survivability.
Its deficiency in neutralizing incoming threats was apparent even though sensor systems “satisfactorily detected, tracked and engaged the targets,” the assessment said.
The vessel’s Gatling gun-like system also “experienced numerous reliability failures that in several cases prevented the system from executing its mission,” the test office said.
The report, which contains unclassified and “controlled unclassified” information, has already been circulated to the Navy, Bloomberg said. It claimed that “only a limited assessment” of the combat system’s effectiveness is currently possible and noted that the testing office plans to send an interim report to Congress by September 30.
The vessel, the first in a new class of nuclear-powered carriers which will project US power around the world, has been dogged with reliability issues since it was delivered to the Navy four years ago.
Last January, a similar report highlighted issues with the ship’s next-generation takeoff and landing systems. The latest assessment also noted the “poor or unknown reliability” of its aircraft launch and recovery systems.