'Stretched7 Version Of Nimitz Recommended For Future Navy Carriers

For the Navy to accommodate future carrier aircraft designs and combat increasingly potent threats to the carrier battle group, it must do one thing: build bigger aircraft carriers. Specifically, a "stretched" version of the current Nimitz class carrier that would be between 125 feet to 400 feet longer. This is the conclusion reached by the Naval Studies Board after a year-long examination of future aircraft carrier technologies.

The board's report, titled "Carrier 21: Future Aircraft Carrier Technology," warned that this stretched Nimitz would not have enough added torpedo defenses to preclude additional active defenses, resulting in the total cost of the ship being up to 25 percent more than a current Nimitz.

The FY-90 defense authorization act directed the Navy to commission the study. The Naval Studies Board is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

P a s s i v e defensive measures needed include reduced radar signature to make targeting more difficult and greater resistance to and control of damage. "Greater resistance to under-keel torpedo damage is the most severe design requirement; it demands space and, thus, affects ship layout, especially of magazines or ship size," the report said.

The "stretched" Nimitz carrier is one of four options the study board has given the Navy. The larger Nimitz provides the Navy with more room for change such as an air wing with larger, heavier aircraft having more range and payload capability.

The "stretched" Nimitz carriers (125 feet larger than a current Nimitz) would cost roughly 10 percent more than the current version excluding the upgraded active defenses and some nonrecurring costs. The largest version—reaching 1,500 feet in length—would cost as much as 100 percent more t h an an extant Nimitz.

The other future carrier design options the study presented to the Navy are: •An advanced Nimitz-type carrier within the Nimitz-size envelope.

This is the least expensive option open to the Navy, with the price tag ranging from 10-15 percent more than a current Nimitz.

The design would be changed to meet some of the more severe threats and to take advantage of new technologies.

•A large semisubmersible ship.

This design offers the greatest opportunity for radar signature reduction.

The study also said this ship may have the "greatest inherent damage resistance" of all the options.

If this ship were to be built, it would need four times the power of a Nimitz carrier to achieve 25 knots.

"This ship would represent a very long extrapolation from current experience with semisubmersibles, so that its design and development could be expected to be fraught with unknowns and the unexpected," the report said. These unknowns could lead this ship construction costs to be from three to four times more than a Nimitz.

Other stories from November 1991 issue


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