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Navy’s New Ford-Class Carrier, the USS Kennedy, is now 50 percent built

File photo – A crane moves the lower stern in place on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) at the Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. 22 June 2017, John F. Kennedy is the second Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier (U. S. Navy photo/Released)

The U.S. Navy and Huntington Ingalls Industries have started with the integration of new radar, weapons, and steel structures in the now 50-percent of the complete second-new Ford-Class carrier, the USS Kennedy.

Builders report the enormous progress is due, to a large extent to the integration of one of the largest planned steel structures, “superlifts,” HII reports.

“With a weight of approximately 905 tonnes, the unit is one of the toughest of the planned steel structures, known as superlifts, which will be merged with the second ship in the Gerald R. Ford class. The super lift of the rear section of the ship between the hangar bay and flight deck is 80 metres long, 110 metres wide and four decks in height,” a statement Huntington Ingalls said.

The combination of 19 smaller units in a super lift allowed Newport News to install a majority of the reduction in the equipment grids, pumps, valves, pipes, electric panels, mounting bolts, lighting, ventilation and other components, developers added.

Earlier this year, the Navy, the completed with the addition of the lower stern, Huntington Ingalls Industries announced.

HII ship developers use a newer construction strategy for the Kennedy, where a handful of techniques intended to reduce the costs and calling on the lessons learned from the building of the first Ford-class carrier in recent years, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

With so much of the ship, hundreds of the structural units are completed on items such as pipe assemblies, cabling, shafts, rudders and struts for the ship, HII reported in Aug. 31 statement.

Ford Class Should be in the Next Century

The USS Kennedy will be the place of the USS Nimitz, which is due to retire by 2027; the Ford-class carriers are planned to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-to-one basis in an incremental fashion for the next fifty years or so.

One of the techniques for Kennedy construction has included efforts to assemble boxes, and parts of the ship together before moving them to the dock – this facilitates construction by allowing builders to integrate into larger parts of the ship faster.

This technique is referred to by Huntington Ingalls developers as “system construction” was also used in the construction of the Ford; the process of welding smaller sections of the ship together in larger structural “super lift” units before it is lifted into the dry dock, HII statements explained.

The construction starts with the bottom of the ship and works up with inner-bottom and side shells before moving to box units, he explained. The lower third of the vessel will be built on the first. Also, some of the methodologies that are now used for the Kennedy of his efforts to fabricate or forge some parts of the ship, instead of casting them, because it makes the process less expensive, builders explained.

HII ship developers are making an aggressive attempt to reduce the cost of the USS Kennedy. Officials have said that the cost of the USS Kennedy will be more than $1.5 billion less than the costs for the construction of the first Ford-Class ship.

The Navy received severe criticism in the last years of the lawmakers and government watchdog groups during the construction of the USS Ford for the rising costs. The construction of the USS Ford liquidation several billion above the beginning of the cost estimates. The cost overruns in the construction of the winding-up of leading Congress to impose a $12.9 billion cost cap on the ship.

At the time, Navy officials pointed out that the integration of new technologies brings challenges, and that at least $3 billion of the Ford’s costs were due to what is described as non-recurring engineering costs for a first-in-class ship such as this. However, service leaders have consistently stated that the Navy has made considerable progress in the pursuit of lower costs for the Kennedy.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Video of the USS Kennedy construction

Also Newport News Shipbuilding – a division of HII was able to buy larger quantities of parts earlier in the construction process with the Kennedy because, unlike the situation during the construction of the USS Ford, the Kennedy’s ship design was complete before construction begins.

As for the design, the Kennedy will be largely similar to the design of the USS Ford, with a few small changes. The Kennedy is given a new radar and its aircraft lifts, the use of electric motors instead of a hydraulic system to lower costs.

New Radar for the USS Kennedy

The Navy plans to test and work with a new, highly sensitive ship-defense radar technology for the 2nd Ford-Class aircraft carrier — to detect incoming enemy fire, anti-ship cruise missiles and air threats, such as attacks from drones, fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters.

The new radar, called the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, or EASR, is scheduled to go on the now-under-construction USS Kennedy (CVN 79), as well as a number of the service to the amphibs such as the LX(R), and the third big-deck America-class amphib, LHA 8.

Testing is planned for next year, and the technical development of EASR is now underway, Navy officials said.

EASR makes use of gallium nitride (GaN) semi-conductor technology and builds on common hardware, software, and processing of the elements of the Navy of the next generation AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar planned for the Flight III DDG 51 destroyers.

“EASR is a SPY-6 variant, with identical hardware, signal processing and data-processing. EASR on the additional capabilities of air traffic control radar, ADMR does not have,” a senior Navy official told reporters last year.

Just as the SPY-6, EASR is designed to be cyber-tempered and reliable, according to Raytheon’s statements.

“EASR has cost and reliability advantages of gallium nitride. It uses digital beam forming and advanced algorithms for the operations in high-clutter, in the neighborhood of country-electromagnetic interference environments,” a Raytheon statement said.

The AN/SPY-6, is described by radar engineers as 35-times more potent than the most-current ship-based radar systems; the developers say that it allows the detection of objects twice as far away and half the size in comparison with the existing radars.

In radar terminology, a 15-decibel increase with AMDR translates into about 35 times more power and sensitivity compared to the existing AN/SPY-1D radar.

AMDR (AN/SPY-6) consists of the S-band and X-band radars and a radar suite controller. Together, the technologies are able to scan, track and search the horizon and surrounding area for threats by sending an electromagnetic signal in the atmosphere, and then analyzing the return signal of what it hits. The information can provide dimensions of a missile or other incoming threat by identifying the size, the shape, the location and the job.

Similar to its predecessor, the Aegis AN/SPY-1D radar, the AMDR includes a phased-array radar, Navy officials said. The S-band radar is designed for long-range detection, while the X-band radar performs the over-the-horizon search capability, according to the service.

AMDR is optimized for anti-air and ballistic missile defense missions, but is also able to in the anti-surface and counter-battery arena.

Just as today, the AN/SPY-1D radar, the AMDR will be able to scan the surface, assisting with the fire-control technology needed to identify where an incoming threat can be intercepted.

Defense Ship

There has been much discussion about how the USS Ford and USS Kennedy ‘ s massively-increased on-board power technology, driven by four 26-megawatt generators, will be possible to be able to new weapons, such as the defensive lasers and railguns.

“In addition to that more than 75 combat aircraft, the USS Ford (and the USS Kennedy as well) a number of serious destructive capabilities. Engineers and designers included ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), and a Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS,” a report of Engineering.com writes.

Fast-moving modern threats inspire a new generation of ship defense technologies for the Marine carriers, including interceptor missiles, torpedo defense, electronic warfare, and even lasers. These systems are performed on the USS Ford and USS Kennedy by the emerging weapons of potential adversaries, such as hypersonic missiles, long-range anti-ship weapons and electronic warfare attacks.

This is particularly true in light of the often discussed threats from the Chinese DF-21D “carrier killer,” a long-range anti-ship guided missile is reported to achieve ranges of more than 900 km. The Chinese DF-26 is also cited in a Pentagon report on China’s military as being a source of great concern.

There has been much discussion about how the USS Ford and USS Kennedy ‘ s massively-increased on-board power technology, driven by four 26-megawatt generators, will be possible to be able to new weapons, such as the defensive lasers and railguns.

Upgrade Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile

The USS Ford is expected to implement with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2, or ESSM, is a weapon designed to track and destroy incoming enemy supersonic missiles and anti-ship missiles, among other threats.

The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can improved flight or guidance to the target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, Marine and industry ESSM developers told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.

The current ESSM missiles use of a so-called semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2 “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built on the rocket itself that it both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

A sailing illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

The emerging rocket has an ‘active’ front-end, which means that it can send a magnetic signal to track a maneuvering target, sometimes without a ship-based illuminator for guidance.

Also the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface sea-skimming or diving in on a target from a greater height, Navy officials explained.

Phalanx Close in Weapons System

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon designed to be a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, the destruction or the beat of enemy fire from the sky for the reach of a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, is the protection of the ship platforms for decades.

CWIS spruce 20 mm Vulcan cannon mounted on a swivel base. An essay in naval forces magazine called “CIWS – the Last-Ditch Defense,” further remarks that the weapon fires “armor piercing tungsten penetrator rounds with discarding sabots.” CIWS fires a M61A1 Gatling gun out of reach of 3 km (1.9 miles).

In earlier interviews, Navy officials have told Warrior Maven, that the latest CIWS Block IB ships provides the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary wing, aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

A CIWS overhaul in the past few years has consisted of a large number of upgrades of the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system, called the Phalanx CIWS Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration includes a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (GBD) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC),

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer.

The DAB/ELC combine tighter dispersion and increased first hit range, a Marine official added. The Phalanx 1B fires Mk 244 ammunition, using the Enhanced Lethality Cartridge specifically designed to penetrate anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Mk 244 ammunition is designed with a 48 percent heavier tungsten penetrator and an aluminum nose piece, according to information from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

The Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade is a new digital radar that offers improved detection performance, greater reliability and a reduction in sailor man-hours for system maintenance, developers said.

The Baseline 2 upgrade mitigates obsolete components inherent in the existing analog radar by introducing COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) processing of the signal in combination with a new signal source and mixer.

CIWS uses “Ku-band radar featuring closed-loop spotting technology capable of autonomously performing its own search, detect, evaluation, track, engage and kill assessment functions,” naval forces essay writing.

The Baseline 2 radar also provides the Phalanx CIWS with the “surface-mode”, means it adds the ability to track, detect and then destroy threats closer to the surface of the water compared to the previous models of the weapon, the developers explained.

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