6 June 2005
Defense Systems Daily
In a 2 June exchange with DSD and other trade press, Rear Admiral Denny Dwyer, the Programme Executive Officer (PEO) for CVN-21 shared the following
metrics on the Navy's next generation carrier:
CVN-21 is now finishing concept design and detail design is about 15% complete. First hull unit steel fabrication on the carrier started April 15,
Despite the challenges of ushering in a new carrier class, CVN-21 will come in at $8.1 billion in acquisition costs, cheaper in Fiscal 2008 dollars
than the $8.4 billion CVN-77, the last of the Nimitz class.
The 50-year total ownership cost of the CVN-21 carrier is anticipated to be $27 billion - five billion less than for the Nimitz class (in FY04
Shrinking the size of the carrier's island will contribute to a slightly larger flight deck and a substantially increased sortie generation rate -
from 120/day sustained (192/day surged) in the Nimitz class to 160/day (270 surged) with the new carrier.
The island, or superstructure, of the Navy's new CVN 21 aircraft carrier is at the heart of numerous improvements planned for the ship. The new
carrier, scheduled for launch in 2014, is to have an improved aircraft sortie rate, a crew that is far smaller than that of the Nimitz-class vessels,
and lower life-cycle costs.
The means to achieve those goals began with a smaller, redesigned island that is made partly of composites and moved aft, or further back, on the deck
relative to islands of the 10 Nimitz-class carriers. Rear Adm. Dennis M. Dwyer, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said the redesign of
CVN 21's island is "the real transformational part of the 'airport'" operations on board the carrier.
Slimming down the island and moving it about 100 feet aft created space on deck for the creation of a centralized re-arming and re-fueling location
the Navy has dubbed the "pit stop," after the similar process in auto racing. It enables the crew to service the aircraft and get them quickly back
into the air for another tactical mission. "That is the concept," said Dwyer. At present, "we do a lot of ... pushing planes around the deck and
that takes a lot of time. They don't push cars in a NASCAR race. They drive them into the pit and they get out in 14 seconds. We [could be] doing
CVN 21, to be built by Northrop Grumman's Newport News Operations, Newport News, Va., is the Navy's first new carrier design since 1965. The ship is
expected to last 50 years, and the CVN 21 carrier class of ships will be the centerpiece of the Navy's expeditionary strike force for more than 100
years. Therefore, the Navy wants quantum improvements in capability in a hull design that is about the same size as the Nimitz class: approximately
1,092 feet in length; a beam of 134 feet; and a flight deck width of 252 feet. A larger hull would have brought penalties in size and cost. Anything
larger than a Nimitz CVN would have required new, larger drydocks, for example.
However, CVN 21 will have a new nuclear reactor that produces 25 percent more power. Steam produced by the reactor will generate three times the
electrical power of the Nimitz, which suffers from chronic overloading of its electrical generators.
The new reactor and other changes permit substantial reductions in crew size. Overall, the CVN 21 will have a crew of 2,100 to 2,500 men and women.
The Nimitz crew totals approximately 3,000 personnel. That reduction should bring substantial cuts in life-cycle costs of the CVN 21, relative to the
Nimitz class, but Dwyer is reluctant to estimate the savings at this early point in the ship's development.
But the Navy's excitement about the new carrier stems in large part from the improvement in operations to be derived from the redesigned island and
the airplane 'pit stop' that will generate aircraft sorties of 140 to 160 per day, with a surge capability to 220 sorties per day. The Nimitz's
normal sortie rate is about 120 per day. Ordnance, fuel, and electronic support systems all will be located at or near the pit stop, eliminating the
need to drag fuel hoses across deck to the planes and push ammo dollies through long distances on the flight and hangar decks.
On the Nimitz class, "we go through a two-hour cycle and quarter of a mile hauling bombs throughout the hangar bay and the mess deck" to get them to
an upper stage elevator and onto a deck staging area, said Dwyer. That made re-arming planes "the long leg" in sortie rates on the Nimitz.
On the CVN 21, ordnance will moved by robotic devices from the magazines to re-located weapons elevators and then to "little bomb farms" near the
pit stops, said Dwyer. Thus, re-arming a plane will probably be measured in "minutes instead of hours."
"We can pull [the aircraft] in once ... and do everything [we need] to them, and they can cycle right out, get to the catapult and go again," Dwyer
As is the case for ordnance, the movement of JP5 aviation fuel around today's flight decks is a cumbersome process, accomplished by dragging long
hoses from hatches and catwalk stations on deck. The CVN 21 design would place shorter fuel hoses directly in the aircraft pit. Diagnostic stations
also will be positioned at the pit for maintenance troubleshooting.
In addition, Navy tactics have changed, reducing the number of sorties flown against most targets. The "whole philosophy of what a sortie is has
changed ... because of technology," said Dwyer. When Nimitz was designed, carrier air wings included A-4s, A-6s, A-7s, F-4s, and F-8s. Multiple
sorties were then launched to release large numbers of usually unguided munitions against single targets. Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the strike
platforms in the typical carrier air wing have evolved and now are based on the F/A-18 Hornet series of tactical aircraft. The ordnance delivered by
the airplanes also has changed, and now includes larger numbers of precision-guided munitions, such as the GPS-assisted Joint Direct-Attack Munitions
series and various laser-guided bombs. Therefore, aircraft involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, over Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom often
engaged multiple targets.
As CVN 21 gets underway, new aircraft will enter the fleet equipped with advanced maintenance diagnostics capabilities. Maintenance systems aboard
ship will be more sophisticated, mirroring some of the computer and datalink capabilities in warfare systems centers. For example, the Lockheed Martin
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which enters naval service after 2010, will send data messages to the vessel, giving maintenance specialists an indication
of what repairs are needed before the aircraft lands on deck.
"This will really help sortie generation rates," Dwyer said.
More advanced systems also are expected to enter fleet service after the end of the decade, such as the joint Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV)
program. The command-and-control and support requirements for a mixed air wing of manned and unmanned aircraft aboard would also demand greater
flexibility in the CVN 21 design.
The first of the CVN 21 class of aircraft carriers will be in service in the fleet until 2064, Dwyer said. In 1965, when the Nimitz was designed,
"could I have ever imagined 2064? The rest of the class goes on after that, into the 22nd century. So ... we need to be flexible. We have learned
that now." *-----------------------------------------------------------------------
The new carriers will cost less to run than the Nimitz class and will provide atleast three times the capability.
Leveraging upsised versions of the nuclear reactors on the Virginia Class submarine, the CVN-21's powerplant provides three times the amount of
electrical power on the Nimitz Class. Eliminating the use of steam for making water, powering catapults, and other maintenance-intensive hassles
facilitates necessary manning reductions.
The Navy is striving for a total CVN-21 manning reduction of over 1,200 over the Nimitz class, including 800 for ship manning (from 3,291 down to
2,491) and nearly 500 for the airwing manning (from 2,270 down to 1,786).
The CVN-21's airwing will include four Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) systems as well as F-35 JSF, E-2C, F/A-18E/F, EA-18G aircraft, and
CVN-21 employs a novel kind of strengthened steel called SHLI 165, a steel not particularly good for making curved surfaces, but strong and cost
The USS. America (CV 66), instrumented for a year prior to its sinking last month well off the shore of North Carolina by explosive charges, provided
valuable survivability data that CVN-21 development will leverage.
The CVN-21 is being designed to go 36 months between depot maintenance, a time period roughly 50% longer than is experienced below.