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. Peter

    Bring back the P-51. That was back when planes were good. The junk they have now is all made in China.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Get help.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SDBrad

    Can anyone say F-111B?

    January 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • No way...

      I can, but I choose not to...

      January 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • HP

      Interesting. The F-111B and the F-35 are/were built in the same factory.

      January 17, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. david, USN RET (SS)

    I'm glad to see we spent millions of dollars on a useless plane. Who wrote the spec's.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seamus McDermott

      The last of the decent spec writers have been retired. Now it's done with cost over-runs. R&D on the customer's dime, brother.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • david, USN RET (SS)

      Moving the cars is a good cost saving plan, intermodal (SEALAND) containers of household goods can also be loaded on the bigger ships to save money.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      I got the information that this was outsourced to a couple of companies in India.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    Well done Lockheed Martin, yet another crappy war machine.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Seamus McDermott

    Another tailhook scandal? What is truly scandalous is the price of the JSF program. How much? How about half a trillion dollars? Right now, it's 388 billion and climbing. For half a trillion, you could provide free medical care for everyone in the US, and send their kids to college just to sweeten the deal.
    Instead, we spend it on defective military trash.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dennis

    This really shouldn't have been very hard to figure out. Valuable design time and dollars down the drain. Whoever's signature was on final approval should be hung.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Who said it was a final design? This plane is in the R and D phase. This is the kind of stuff you find out in R and D.

      January 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jimmy

    The Navy didn't want the F35 to start with.New F18 super hornets will be just fine thank you.When they decommission the oldest nuclear carrier next year do not replace it. Ten super carriers are enough with todays technology.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • david, USN RET (SS)

      The USS Enterprize, ~51 years ols is scheduled to be decommosioned in the the next couple years, that should save a lot of money.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. whybs

    You can betcha that we can sell it to China for a nice profit – at least the first one! 🙂

    January 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chris

    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the F-35 come equipped with VSTOL? Harriers took off and landed vertically on carriers just fine.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • TinKnight

      Chris, it depends on the version.
      The Marine Corps' version (which I thought was the version the UK was buying for their carriers) is STOVL (V/STOL is a misnomer). However, both the USAF and USN versions are conventional fighters, with the USN version modified specifically for carrier usage. I guess it wasn't modified enough. 🙂

      Theoretically, the USN "could" go with the Marine Corps version, but they'd lose a lot of payload & range capacity.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allan

      Not all models have VSTOL. That would also increase fuel usage.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kent

      F-35 A Air Force version. F-35 B VSTOL. Marines F-35 C Navy version.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      How about some of you read back a few pages before shooting off. Jeezzz, this has been covered 10 times already.

      January 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jay7803

    Why would the Navy go back to single engine carrier-based aircraft?? When you are in the middle of the ocean...and there isnt a divert field anywhere in sight...a second engine is a naval aviators best friend. I just dont understand why the Navy would want to put its aviators in that situation. There is FOD on the flight deck...not to mention the wear and tear of cat-shots and traps. Ask anyone who served on carriers 20 or 30 years ago and they will tell you stories of A-7's or F-8's that left the carrier and simply did not return. They lost the engine, and had no alternative than to eject. I hope the Navy doesn't go back to those days.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. This is all stupid and waste of time and money

    Who cares, all this crap is completely obsolete in protecting our country. There are 2 ways we will (not when but will) get attacked. One way will be a 40 ft container on a container ship containing a 155mm howitzer to set off the nuclear fusion reaction of a crude but very deadly nuclear bomb. The other will be a cyber attack on our national electrical grid, rendering it useless. Guess what, all the new and existing jet fighters and aircraft carriers in the entire world wont be ale to stop either event from happening. And that's what all you armchair war hawks should be crying about and what should keep all of us up at night. Otherwise keep checking my shoes luggage at the gate and keep spending billions on useless obsolete military hardware. But don't expect it to actually protect us form 21 century threats....

    January 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • TinKnight

      So...how exactly do you get a CRUDE nuclear fusion bomb? And why the heck would someone be so stupid as to load a medium howitzer into a container and shoot it?? Are you wanting this super-powerful fusion bomb to be fired from the howitzer? There would be absolutely no reason to go through all that trouble & expense for something that is of moderate effectiveness at best. Or maybe the howitzer is supposed to shoot and hit a bomb which was already planted...which makes even less sense, since detonators are FAR easier to create, transport, and use, and more reliable.

      Honestly, you're not better than the other armchair generals that think their hairbrained idea is the right hairbrained idea.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Carrier Battle groups are not meant or designed to protect the US mainland.They exist solely to protect US and her allies' ecomomic and political interests by projecting military power in parts of the world where needed. For example ....keeping bad guys from closing the Straights of Hormuz or the two Koreas
      from going to war. It's a relative cheap way to ensure Mickey Mouse wars don't break out world wide.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ This is all stupid and waste of time and money
      THE reason we will/could get attack that way is because we HAVE the carriers. We keep the fight off our ground. They also are a great deterrent. That is not opinion. Think it trough before you comment next time.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      What better way to protect the homeland if something like that happened than to park 10 or 12 Carrier battle groups off the coast. How else to you suppose we do it. Sticks and rocks?

      January 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SFC Kelly

    Coolarticle but obviously written very poorly. you need to capatalize Soldiers and Sailors. and not too many Soldiers are on an aircraft carrier, they are called Sailors. This journalism is a prime example of a drive by publish. I suppose the Editor is the one totally at fault here before it was published, and after it was published for screening!

    January 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boomer in Mo

      The article is written in English, not German. Most nouns are NOT capitalized in English; all are capitalized in German.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JustWrong

    This article is just sadly wrong. Has anyone watched the most recent videos of this plane taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier. The aircraft carrier version does not require a tailhook, nor does it need a catapult to get off the deck.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stuart

      Your name says it all, you are just wrong. The carrier version (F-35 C) is not designed for vertical landing that was the Marine version (F-35 B) which also has a lower payload and range. If you want to make a point please do some basic research before you spout off.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rob

    I wish I had the money to buy a carrier I'd live on it no problem.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    using it to transport sailors cars means nothing – it shows that they are saving money by just saying put the car on the carrier since both the sailor and the carrier are going to the same place, so save money. I'm tired of these idiots around trying to read into it.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
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