U.S. Navy Bets $42 Billion on Carriers in China’s Sights
The U.S. Navy is betting $42 billion on a new class of aircraft carriers, the world’s biggest and costliest warships ever, even as the Pentagon budget shrinks and China and Iran arm themselves with weapons to disable or destroy the behemoths.
(Corrects to clarify status and location of ship construction.) June 11 (Bloomberg) — Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. says the shell of the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier it is building is 75 percent complete. The project’s 2015 delivery date could be in jeopardy, however, if automatic defense-spending cuts set to take effect in January are implemented. The defense industry has launched a lobbying campaign to stave off the cuts, which would reduce the U.S. defense budget by $55 billion a year through 2021 unless lawmakers agree on a way to cut debt by $1.2 trillion over a decade. Bloomberg’s Britton Staniar reports. (Source: Bloomberg)
Chart: Carrier Suppliers Span U.S.
Senator John McCain, seen here discussing defense spending at a news conference in Washington on February 2, 2012, has called the Navy’s oversight of construction on the USS Gerald R. Ford “outrageous,” and “a national disgrace.” Photographer: Pete Marovich/Getty Images
An MV-22 Osprey takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during test operations in the Atlantic Ocean on March 20, 2012. The Navy says the Ford-class ships will be able to carry about 75 aircraft, to the Nimitz class’s 60. Photographer: Brian M. Brooks/U.S. Navy
Mike Petters, president and chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., speaks during an interview in Washington, on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. The company stands to lose as much as $194.3 million, more than 40 percent of a potential fee, based on the overruns projected by the Navy. Photographer: Christopher Powers/Bloomberg
The Navy says the new carriers — rising 20 stories above the water, 1,092 feet (333 meters) long, moving at 30 knots (35 miles per hour) with almost 5,000 Americans on board — can project U.S. power around the globe.
“A carrier is 4 1/2 acres of sovereign U.S. territory,” Captain Bruce Hay, a Navy pilot who helps set requirements for the new carrier, said in an interview. “An aircraft carrier is a piece of America, and we’re going to do what it takes to keep them relevant because a carrier is presence and American resolve all at one time.”
The ships’ rising costs are drawing scrutiny from lawmakers at a time when the military faces cuts in personnel and funding for new weapons. Critics see the new Gerald R. Ford-class carriers as big targets for rival militaries expanding their arsenals of ballistic and cruise missiles, undersea mines, submarines, drones and cyber weapons.
“Our future adversaries are developing a set of capabilities specifically for the purpose of attacking our aircraft carriers,” Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in an interview.