As China makes progress on its third aircraft carrier and plans to build several more as soon as possible, the US Navy is taking steps to ensure it stays on track with the production and delivery of its emerging fleet of Ford-class aircraft carriers.
China now operates two aircraft carriers, the Soviet-built one liaoning and indigenous construction shandong. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has already carried out twin carrier patrols and power projection exercises operating the two carriers together, and China is working to speed up the construction of a third aircraft carrier. China is taking advantage of its large industrial base and shipbuilding capacity to build its own carrier fleet. Notably, rather than using a curved deck, China’s third aircraft carrier appears designed to mirror the USS Fordflat load-bearing bridge.
While the US Navy currently operates a much larger fleet of aircraft carriers and can project more power than China, Pentagon leaders are taking critical steps to ensure the growing fleet of Ford-class aircraft carriers is efficiently produced. The Ford-class introduces a full suite of breakthrough technologies specific to carrier air wing power projection, and the Navy wants to ensure its much-needed carrier fleet is delivered on time.
The Navy and its many partners in the shipbuilding industry pursued a “two-ship” procurement strategy to consolidate financing and procurement practices for two separate carriers. The service was already using the “bulk purchase” technique with Ford’s third and fourth class carriers. This strategy has consolidated and streamlined the purchase and delivery of crucial supplies and “long-lead items”, or key ship components that must be acquired prior to construction.
The concept of a “Bulk Purchase” of two ships synergizes the acquisition of much-needed materiel to ensure there are sufficient supplies for the Navy’s ambitious shipbuilding schedule.
“We hope that when we get to the 2024 budget, we will start getting the same funding for CVN 82 and CVN 83 as a bulk purchase with advanced planning funds to help suppliers purchase materials in advance. Some of these products are needed earlier in the development cycle,” said Richard Giannini, CEO of Milwaukee Valve Company and Chairman of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition (ACIBC). national interest in an interview.
The ACIBC exists to help gather support for the robust production capacity needed to acquire and modernize the carrier fleet. The ACIBC includes up to 2,000 individual vendors from nearly every state and a skilled workforce that must be maintained and replenished as needed, Giannini said. Part of this includes efforts to find, train, and retain highly skilled machinists and workers capable of supporting aircraft carrier construction.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.