Why aircraft carriers may be good for parking cars but not landing new jets
Sailors' cars fill the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during transit up the U.S. West Coast.
January 16th, 2012
11:33 AM ET

Why aircraft carriers may be good for parking cars but not landing new jets

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.

An F-35C test aircraft launches from a test catapult in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

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.

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Filed under: Marines • Military • Pentagon • U.S. Navy • United Kingdom
soundoff (455 Responses)
  1. BOMBO ©

    So, the navy was in on the development of the F-35 years ago, and this was never properly tested? I suppose it can still do vertical landing, but the fuel use is massive.

    January 16, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • UTC-Jay

      I belive that the vertical takeoff and landing would be too stressfull on the ships deck. When first tested the JSF actually destroyed some runways with the amount of thrust created.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vito_1502

      While the F-35 is supposed to be a follow-on to the AV-8 Harrier, there simply is no excuse for the tailhook snafu – other than another example of corporate welfare foisting an inferior, below RFP system on our SSAMs.

      This tells me (again) that DoD is not doing a good job at keeping tabs on Project Mgrs – the military officer that is supposed to be overseeing the testing and evaluation...and is intimately familiar with the desired specs of the hardware. Makes you wonder what it takes to make a supposed 'professional' violate his/her oath and look the other way.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      OnNly the USMC version can do vertical landing. The F-35C, the Navy version can't.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      Carrier variant does not have vertical landing capability. Only marine variant F-35B. The F-35C was not meant for carrier vertical landing. Also didn't "destroy" a runway, simply melted a little asphalt here and there from jet exhaust.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mmmmm ♔♕

    junk article that does not make any sense...it isn't a crime but patriotic to defend one's country...not in agreement about decommissioning and downsizing fleet...takes a awhile to build those things...remember pear harbor.

    January 16, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. F

      I'm lifting my appletini in salute to pear harbor. Melon Labe!

      January 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • No one

      "Molon lave" is what you are looking for. The greek B makes a V sound.

      January 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I think that oversights like this are partially a result of training humans to process information with computers before learning to think without any reliance on machines.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mmmmm ♔♕

    ...besides our carriers are not restricted to military mission they have done humanitarian missions as well...

    January 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emigdio Alvarez

      i still remember this joke my father told me:

      at a UNSC meeting discussing the 2004 indonesian tsunami, the US announced it was sending an aircraft carrier. France claims that we were going to invade. the American representative then stated "Our carriers can provide makeshift hospitals, electrical power, purified water, and food supplies. can any French aircraft carrier do that? didn't thing so.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat (in a hat)©

    So now we'll have a bunch of multi-billion dollar floating parking lots.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lee

    Billions flushed down the john again! I knew it was Obama's fault not to check out the original design and development of the F-35C fighter while he was still an embryo developing form demon seed in Kenya.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheMovieFan

      The sad thing is that there is a significant chunk of the electorate that would consider that a serious posting and agree with you.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rush

      What?? It isn't a serious posting? I dunno. But Barack Hussein Obama is Spawn of the Devil. Remember this is 2012 and the Messiah is, huh, poised to return... again... and where will he go if the flight decks of our carriers are chock a block full of GM's finest? Obama is doing Al Qaeda's work...

      January 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • correction

      The design and prototyping of the F35 began from before the Bush administration. It was called the JSF.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gilbert Nadeau

    I think this is allot of BS. You can check out the carrier landing tests of the F35 on You Tube. As far as the Brits needing a carries based plane and the F35 being the delay of GB not having capability. The Brits decommissioned the one and only carrier they had last year. They are in the process of sharing an air craft carrier with France. Mr. Lendon needs to go sharpen his pencil and do a little due dilligence before he writes an article.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnneS

      Or perhaps you need to read more carefully. The report specifically lists the F-35C, not all F-35 configurations in general.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DM

      So why even talk about the F-35C on carriers?

      January 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gilbert Nadeau

      AnneS, I am not sure what you mean by me need ing to read more carefully. The F35 has been extensively tested for carrier use. Did you see the photo of one being launched in the article? Yes I agree, I did miss the letter designation but that does change the fact that the article is twisting the facts.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. USN Retired

    When a carrier does a home port change, sailors are allowed to bring vehicles onboard so that they have transportation when they get to they're new home. It's called taking care of your own.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lostraven

      When my husband's ship made a port change from Norfolk, to San Diego, not only did they take one of our cars onboard the ship, (I had to drive the other and contend with three young children by myself for five days.....NOT FAIR!) but they also took a large portion of our household goods. It was nice, quick, easy and didn't cost us or the Navy, anywhere near as much as it would have cost to do ship everything over land. We also had our stuff a lot quicker and amazingly enough, nothing was broke or missing.

      January 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Concerned Citizen

    I wonder how many staff at DoD, USN and Lockheed Martin will be fired over this – probably not very many and that's a really bad thing when billions of taxpayers money has apparently been wasted with this unusable design. Since Lockheed have previously made carrier jets, it's really hard to understand this error.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jackblackshairyback

    Thi9s article is pure crap. Whoever supposedly did the research on it apparently missed the fact that the -35 is a vertical takeooff and landing craft, much like the Harrier. You can see it's capabilities here http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Ki86x1WKPmE Now tell us again how the tailhook of the F-35 makes it unusable on carriers? You call yourselves reporters?!?!

    January 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      I believe the real issue is fuel use involved with vertical take-off and landing for the F-35. The Harrier has a huge fuel use issue, thus the British Carriers that support the Harrier have a curved ramp for Harrier launch.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      The Marine Corps version can do VSTOL, but the Navy version cannot.

      Do some research.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Royce

    The F-35 needs a longer Tail Hook to grab the Cable on the Flight Deck. This can be modified in a short time. To say that it cannot be fixed is not exactly correct. The power of the twin engines is very adequate for lift off and landing approach. Few minor design changes and it's in use. The problems like this surface as maturity of the program continues. Every Aircraft that had any volume for production had simple problems and every politician and critic wanted to shut the program down. The F-22 was a great Aircraft, but critics shut it down due to cost and role. If they had left in in production we would have a strong Defense posture. So now we have decided to pick at another Aircraft program in it's infant stages.

    January 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      well said.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Noatarichboy

    Don't forget that a carrier also makes a great place for the President to catch a basketball game. The Navy better be sure to keep at least one for that important event!!

    January 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Royce

    The Navy ordered a Carrier Based Aircaft for use in Carrier Based approached landings and takeoff's even though it is a Vertical Liftoff, they also wanted a Carrier approach as well. There is always potential for design changes. Dual roles
    is always important to have.

    January 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GALLO

    You have to remember the source of the story that the F-35 can land on a carrier. This is a fascist liberal website, after all

    January 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    BOMNO mentioned the fuel consideration in the first comment.
    I noticed it. Why didn't all of us?
    BOMBO is a good source of knowledge to consider, especially regarding anything scientific.

    January 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Thanks JIF, and to be fair UTC-Jay and others brought up a point that I was not previously aware, that the B varient is not well suited to current carrier design. Canada and other countries involved in the project are having regrets about this plane. At what point do we just consider this thing a fiasco and move on? We'd love to have the F-22 up here. Doesn't solve the US and British Navy problem though.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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