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. LS3

    My vehicle was onboard an aircraft carrier two weeks ago on the way to Washington state. It felt a bit odd, but it worked out while we aren't doing flight ops and it really helped out the sailors

    January 18, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      I must admit it makes the carrier look useful.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RH

    1. I agree with cutting back the carrier fleet. Cutting back 1 or 2 carriers isn't going to severely deplete our international presence. This may also mean that some destroyers, cruisers, and frigates will be decommissioned; the act would save much money that can be spent researching more efficient systems.
    2. The F-35 program is a total disaster: it's not cheap (think $100 mil each plane), it's not supportable (no freaking carrier capabilities), and it's definitely not the most lethal ever (F22 or Su-30 MKI is)
    3. SWEET...Yay, we're using resources wisely for once...but where do the freaking jets go?!

    January 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Either the hangar deck just below the flight deck, or they were shipped off to their land bases. Aircraft aren't permanently assigned to a carrier 100% of the time, they rotate.

      January 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • chartle

      When a aircraft carrier goes into port it flys it planes to a nearby navel air base before it gets there. The reason being is that in port they can't take off. The only way to take off the carrier otherwise would be a crane and that's just not right.

      February 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      The hanger deck is wayyy too small to fit all of the aircraft. They were flown to whatever base the squadrons are assigned to.
      Actually, Carrier Air Group 5 is permanently attached to a carrier (currently the George Washington). The Washington is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan and the CVW-5 is forward deployed to Atsugi, Japan.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. N

    I disagree with cutting back on carriers. Carriers are portable bases that get nearly anywhere and project American power nearly anywhere. Auditing procurement processes as well as reducing other ship purchases would be a much better option, as well as reducing the # of soldiers deployed overseas.

    This article also omits the fact that Pres. Obama has stated (along with support of Military Leadership) that cutting a carrier group is not planned, but was discussed.

    Keep in mind, this is an error involving British carriers, not American by the sound of this article. While I think the F-22 is by far the most lethal air superiority fighter ever created, the F-35 should be the greatest multirole aircraft in the skies.

    January 19, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Doesnt the f35 fly around 3k miles? so we use marines to create take some land and bam 1 jets with fuel of shore means we are stuck close to shores but ok they have sea support to start?

      January 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • lane arnold

      the f-35 will probably be the last maned fighter-Washington intends to buy 2,443, at a price tag of $382 billion.

      Add in the $650 billion that the Government Accountability Office estimates is needed to operate and maintain the aircraft, and the total cost reaches a staggering $1 trillion.

      In other words, we're spending more on this plane than Australia's entire GDP ($924 billion).--Above all, the F-35 was meant to be affordable. Development costs would be shared across the three versions and with eight foreign partners who were also buying and helping to build the F-35-The danger for Lockheed Martin is that if orders start to tumble, the F-35 could go into a death spiral. The fewer planes governments order, the more each one will cost and the less attractive the F-35 will be.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Judith

      Actually this a problem with the aircraft and the same problem will exist on US Carriers that shall exist on British Carriers. The UK and US use the same landing gear for aircraft on carriers.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mobetta

      still wondering when and where (not if) the first strikes against our carriers will be successful. Iran or China? One nuke and the entire task force is history. And ramifications throughout the world? Oy vey....

      March 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bobmc

    Well, the way I see it, Obama is going to give all land west of the Mississippi, and whats left over will go to Russia at the rate I view things, Carriers or no Carriers.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • anselm

      Sounds good to me! And while he is about it he should give Texas back to Mexico.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Really? Seriously? West of the Mississippi? Russia? I mean...really?

      January 25, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • tregs

      Spoken like a true blue tea bag...no thought, just simpleton answers...lol

      January 25, 2012 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Epacific

      What are you smoking? Can I have some?

      February 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaddingtonPoohBear

      Amen tregs and anselm! lol

      February 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      We really need G W Bush back. Having a President whose family was personal friends with Osama bin Laden's family really helped the US.

      Seriously, i think Obama is doing a pretty good job of cleaning up after Georgie

      February 2, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Please tell us where you live specifically so that we may cede your place of residence away. Is it your singular mission to demonstrate why abortion should remain legal for the benefit of society?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Havshotuni

      Bobmc is not nearly as unbalanced as he will be when the President kicks the poop out of Mittens in November.

      February 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aletheya

      Texas can go – we'll rename it "Teabagland" so all the tea party nutballs and Obama haters will have a place to call home. We'll keep the rest though.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in NJ

      Well, that way Mrs Palin can finally be right – she can get a house that can see Russia from her front porch!
      Truly amazing, the things some people will say with a straight face.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • EarlGrayHot

      Nonsense. Do you have anything relevant to say that is relevant to the article?

      March 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense Please

      ill take alaska

      March 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • soulcatcher

      give mexico back to texas?

      How about give us back Davy Crockett and James Bowie first.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shawn Stewart

    It would be nice to credit the military photographers we work hard to get these shots.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Richard Alexander

    I was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Yellowstone in the mid-80s. The "Yellowstone" wasn't large enough for very many cars, but we could store motorcycles. When we went overseas, several of the sailors stored their motorcycles aboard ship.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • William

      The Yellowstone WAS only a destroyer tender too. I was on the Acadia. Those ships are now defunct.

      February 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ronnie68

    We have people who are capable of developing a strong telescoping tail hook that would work.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • soulcatcher

      Why not wait for China to develop one for their fighter and buy it from them?

      March 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ReAllieT

    Lets get back the 16 TRILLION the Federal Reserve ILLEGALLY stole from US when they said it was "only" 700 billion.

    That would help eh ? How much is a carrier ?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nugun


    This seems like such a solvable problem. Build a longer tail hook. In fact, simply run it under the belly of the craft and let it extend out like an antenna. I understand the landing gear might be in the way. No biggie, make the hook split as a "Y"

    Then it can slide out farther. Sure, it might have some hit on the superb radar hiding design. But it's better than no 5th gen carrier capable aircraft.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Keith

    Ah yes, here we see yet ANOTHER problem with Congress. Congress is mandating by law how many carriers the Navy must maintain? Perhaps Congress should mandate by law that they all be given the rank of Admiral while they're at it. Is there absolutely any reasonable explanation for why Congress would mandate to highly experienced and intelligent Navy professionals how many carriers they must maintain other than lobbyists wanting to make sure tax payer money keeps flowing to the war profiteers?

    February 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • maurak

      Congress mandates all DoD weapons acquisition via funding allocation. Admirals aren't elected representatives, but they share a responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars; first in line, though, is the legislative branch that grants funding to the executive. You know, it's a thing we do. 🙂

      I'd suggest that Congress needs to continue doing so, but they need to review the job description and better represent the interests of taxpayer as stakeholder in defense acquisition.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jerry

    Thats a huge problem! They better start outfitting carriers to handle the F-35! If there is no sea based air support for troops it will greatly hinder our abilities to control the skies in long distance campains. Please tell me the F-35 isnt another blunder like the F-22! We spent 700 Billion dollars on the F-22 fleet and it has yet to ever see combat operations due to constant technical problems. Guess there is always the trustworthy F-15, F-18, .....I cautiously say Harrier fleets to rely on. Especially since we just bought the UK's entire Harrier fleet a few months back. But I wouldn't say its all that trustworthy because of the dubious nickname we gave it when I was at Cherry Point " the Carolina lawn dart". They had a way of crashing frequently and when they did they looked just like a lawndart coming down.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • mobetta

      read the post.... the F-35 can't handle the tail hook required to land on a carrier. The carrier is okay. Where were these d-bags heads when they were designing the planes???? Another instance of government trying to be all things to all people – and failing miserably at all.

      March 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      How about the concept of not butting into everyone else's business? Then we wouldn't need long range support for our troops at all!

      March 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rob Allan

    Only our government with its bloated budget for things that are useless could accomplish this!

    February 14, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. EarlGrayHot

    What morons developed a plane that couldn't land on a carrier? The same people who engeneered a bomber that is damaged when it has to fly through rain?

    March 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cleareye

    All aircraft carriers are relics of the cold war and should be abandoned in favor of strategic bases in areas of concern. It is preposterous that we still hae 11 carrier battle groups floating all over the world at a cost of hundreds of billions when the job could be done for 1/10th the cost and far less risk. In fact, the navy as a whole concept should be studied as to its need.

    March 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alvis

    If the Enterprise is as good as the Navy says it is, why should it be scrapped? Why not use it for the Reserves, or maybe just rig it up as a missle warship and deploy it where it would serve as the best deterrent. No, China wants the scrapped steel to build their own carrier from the defunct Enterprise.

    March 13, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
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