UK media: US have done wrong in building Ford-class carriers

China Military
Zhang Tao

BEIJING, March 13 (ChinaMil) -- "Having the 12-carrier Navy we need ", "(Let the US military) Win! Win!," said US President Donald Trump, who chose the deck of the newest USS Gerald R. Ford, for a speech extolling his planned boost in military spending last week.

It is said that this speech is extraordinary appealing. For example, the website of Politico quoted an old welder of the shipyard who did not vote for Trump in the presidential election "I loved it. ... And he seemed to understand what we have to go through.”

However, what is appealing is not always right. The idea of "rising military spending equals growing military strength" is outdated, and now even the logic of "have an expensive aircraft carrier means that you can win" is also questionable.

Reuters issued a special report on March 9 local time, saying that the US aircraft carriers "championed by Trump, are vulnerable to attack". Today, the US is the only country to base its naval strategy on aircraft carriers. The US fleet of 10 active carriers is 10 times as big as those deployed by its primary military rivals, Russia and China, who field one active carrier each. But for the newly-developed weapons by countries such as China and Russia, the U.S. aircraft carrier is "just a target", said the report.

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, a carrier is just a target,” says defense analyst Pierre Sprey, who worked for the US Secretary of Defense’s office from 1966 to 1986.

A 2015 Rand Corporation report, “Chinese Threats to U.S. Surface Ships,” found that if hostilities broke out, “the risks to US carriers are substantial and rising.”

Roger Thompson, a defense analyst and professor at Kyung Hee University in South Korea, says the array of powerful anti-ship weapons developed in recent years by "potential US enemies", including China, Russia and Iran, increase carriers’ vulnerability, according to the report.

Reuters said that the new weapons include land-based ballistic missiles, such as China’s Dong Feng-21 anti-ship missile, which has a claimed range of 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) and moves at 10 times the speed of sound. Certain Russian and Chinese submarines can fire salvoes of precision-guided cruise missiles from afar, potentially overwhelming carrier-fleet anti-missile defense.

Russia, China, Iran and other countries also have so-called super-cavitating torpedoes. These form an air bubble in front of them, enabling them to travel at hundreds of miles per hour. The torpedoes cannot be guided, but if aimed straight at a ship they are difficult to avoid, said Reuters.

Reuters also reported that Trump did not mention that the ship’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, launched the Ford more than three years ago, but the Navy has yet to commission it and put it into service because of severe flaws. Many of its new high tech systems failed to work, including such basic ones as the “arresting gear” that catches and stops landing jets.

The Navy says the ship will be commissioned sometime this year. But the criticism has continued. In a written statement in July, John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted the cost overruns and cited a list of crucial malfunctioning systems that remained unfixed.

Ray Mabus, who in January stepped down as secretary of the Navy, said in an interview that the Gerald R. Ford “is a poster child for how not to build a ship.” He added: “Everything that could have been done wrong was done wrong.”

According to Reuters, there are many criticisms on the Ford. Sprey, the former Defense Department official and longtime Pentagon procurement critic, said: “Every Ford-class carrier we build detracts from US defense.”

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