As this third week in January starts, we're learning three things about the U.S. military aircraft carrier program:
– The Pentagon may be looking at reducing the number of carriers in the U.S. fleet from 11 to 10 to save money.
– The military's new F-35C Joint Strike Fighter may not be suitable for carrier use.
– Aircraft carriers make fine automobile transports.
On the first point, The Washington Times reports, citing unnamed sources, that the U.S. Navy may be trying to cut one of its 11 carriers to save money.
Congress has mandated by law that the Navy maintain 11 carriers. But the Pentagon is also under orders from the Obama administration to cut $488 billion from its budget within the next 10 years, Rowan Scarborough reports in the Times.
Cutting a carrier, along with the other forces that make up and support a carrier battle group, could save the Navy billions of dollars, according to the Times report.
As for the F-35C, reports have begun circulating that the aircraft the military says is "the most affordable, lethal, supportable and survivable aircraft ever to be used by so many warfighters across the globe" won't be able to land on aircraft carriers, apparently because its tailhook is too short and is situated too close to its landing gear for the plane to properly grab the arresting cables that enable planes to land on aircraft carriers.
The report was first seen last week on the website aviationintel.com and was backed up by a report in London's Sunday Times that has been picked up by press across Britain.
Aviationintel.com reported that the design flaw is not fixable because there's just not enough space on the belly of the F-35C to move the tailhook back.
British naval sources said the flaws could place the entire JSF program in jeopardy, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. Britain was expected to buy about 50 of the planes, the Telegraph reported.
Jim Murphy, the shadow defense secretary, said, "An island nation like ours should be able to operate aeroplanes from an aircraft carrier. The government must come clean on the full impact of the defense review. It's essential we know how long we will be without carrier strike capability," according to the Telegraph report.
Just last week, the U.S. Marine Corps reported it welcomed its first F-35B into its fleet. The first Marine jets will be used for training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the Corps said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the website Jalopnik reports that aircraft carriers also make great automobile carriers and save the Navy money in the process.
Photos from the USS Ronald Reagan show its flight deck loaded with the personal vehicles of sailors as the carrier travels along the West Coast to Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington, where the carrier will undergo maintenance.
And the saving money part?
"First, the only other way to get vehicles owned by Navy sailors to their final destinations is to put them in another ship. Second, if they didn't send soldiers' vehicles they'd have to pay for transportation at the final destination. Both of which would absolutely cost more money," Jalopnik points out.