Study: bigger aircraft carriers, like the Ford-class, are better

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A study from the RAND Corporation made publicly available last month suggests bigger aircraft carriers may still be better for the Navy.

There have been calls in recent years from members of Congress to pursue lower-cost carrier options for the fleet.

However, the RAND study found that the Navy can't build a cheaper carrier without significantly limiting capability or overhauling how it buys carriers.

Currently, Newport News Shipbuilding in Hampton Roads is the only place in the country that builds nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the United States Navy.

The study was provided to Navy in July 2016 as a classified, restricted-distribution report. A shorter version was publicly released in October.

Four alternatives were explored in the RAND study, all as possible alternatives as the legacy force begins reaching expected service life in the coming decades.

You can read the entire report from RAND here.

Key findings from the report:

Each Variant Affects Force Sortie Generation

  • A CVN 8X, a descoped Ford-class carrier, offers similar warfighting capability to that of the Ford-class carrier.
  • A CVN LX offers an integrated, current air wing with capabilities near current levels but with less organic mission endurance for weapons and aviation fuel.
  • The CV LX, which is a version of the LHA 6 platforms, might be a low-risk, alternative pathway for the Navy to reduce carrier costs if such a variant were procured in greater numbers than the current carrier shipbuilding plan.
  • The smallest concept variant reviewed, the CV EX, does not provide either a significant capacity or an integrated air wing.

Each Variant Affects Cost

  • A CVN 8X might generate fewer sorties than the Ford class and might only incrementally reduce overall platform cost.
  • A CVN LX concept would allow considerable savings across the ship's service life.
  • A CV LX could potentially reduce overall construction costs if it allowed for reduced carrier numbers were reduced.
  • A CV EX is not practical at all without considerable revision of Navy warfighting concept of operations.