Naval Air: The Incredible Mutating Carrier Class


April 9, 2007: No one has come right out and said it, but the concept of "ship classes" is disappearing when it comes to American aircraft carriers. There will probably never again be a large "class" of aircraft carrier. Even the Nimitz's are at best half-sisters, since the design gets updated with each new ship. With the Gerald Ford (CVN-78), the likelihood is that the mods to each subsequent ship will be even more noticeable.

The Ford was supposed to be the first of new, post-Nimitz class carriers. But that idea was scrapped because the new technology was not quite there yet. So the Ford will be the last of the Nimitz class, and like all her predecessors, an evolution on the original USS Nimitz (CVN-68), which entered service in 1975, and the most recent one CVN-77, which enters service in two years). The Ford won't enter service until 2014, and the next carrier, the CVN-79 will be the first of a new class, with a new hull, a new look topside, and lots of new tech inside. After that, new carriers are expected to arrive a 5-10 year intervals, and, like the Nimitzs, with lots of modifications. In fact, because the mods have been arriving in larger quantities of late, and involving greater changes to the basic ship design, the concept of the CVN-79 being the first ship in a "class" will wither away.




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