This week at the Diplomat I take a look at the USS Gerald Ford:
The USS Nimitz (CVN-68), the name ship of the most numerous class of aircraft carriers since the World War II-era Essex, was laid down in 1968. George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), the final carrier in the class, entered service in 2009. Many of the carrier’s escorts, including the California and Virginia-class cruisers and the Spruance-class destroyers, went through their entire production runs and life cycles during the Nimitz production run. The last ship of the Nimitz-class may not leave service until the 2060s. It’s hardly hyperbole to suggest that the Nimitz and her sisters have set the standard of maritime primacy for longer than any other single class of warships in modern history.
But as with any production run of extended length, the differences between the early and later ships are significant. The service-life extension program (SLEP) gave the U.S. Navy (USN) the opportunity to update the earlier ships, although Nimitz still differs considerably from George H.W. Bush. And rather than continue with the evolutionary process, the USN has decided to make a more substantial step into the Gerald R. Ford class.