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. Change

    President Obama better be careful with the way in which he's cutting spending and reducing our government. The Tea Party and the GOP may call for his impeachment for trying to be fiscally responsible. And by the way, remember the President just introduced proposal to consolidate the Dept of Commerce? Yea, the President better be careful there too because the oppossition may accused him of trying to set a legacy for himself.

    January 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Schweddy

      You are definitely sarcastic and most definitely either misguided or just plain stupid.

      Not really sure just yet, we'll need a brain biopsy to get to the bottom of it.

      January 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ivnprt

    AGAIN ! I thought the Navy had taken care of the tail-hook problem years ago in Las Vegas

    January 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rico

    American exceptionalism at it's finest.

    January 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    What incredible planning and coordination.... designing and building an attack plane that suddenly can't be used on all of our existing carriers. This is precisely the sort of waste and mismanagement that needs to get cut from the pentagon budget. No wonder they whine about the budget cuts...whoever is getting paid (the so-called military-industrial complex)off to suggest that now we'll need all new carriers to fit the new planes may have to get a real job. Bogus!

    January 16, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cykill45

      i find this hard to believe, ill wait for further proof.

      January 16, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Galen Powers

    That's why it has a vertical takeoff/landing capability.

    January 16, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tip

    this is a stupid article

    January 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Thanks. I thought I was the only one.

      January 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • popeye1128

      Because it shows how stupid our engineers have become?

      January 16, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Clint

    The F-35B has the ability for short take off and to hover/land like a helicopter, IE, the navy might just need to buy F-35Bs instead of F-35As

    Seems like a simple fix.

    January 16, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Geoff

    a) Our existing carrier aircraft are fine to get us to the new, real next generation – carrier borne drone aircraft. Oh, and did I mention the hyper-sonic aircraft we plan to launch for the US that can get to any point on the globe in two hrs.?
    b) If we actually allowed USN boat staff to be rotated by air transport, rather than sail to and from their stations at sea, the ships could stay out longer, and the "need," such as it is, for 11 aircraft carriers, would disappear.
    c) The car news is awesome, because once the drones and hyper-sonics come online, the need for these 90,000 ton monsters will evaporate.

    January 16, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Come in Will Robinson, come in!! Actually, the navy CAN keep a carrier out indefinitely but it doesn't for the well being of the ships company. If we did it your way, we would have to double or triple the personnel needed to run the ship. Where is the cost saving then?

      January 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      OH, and just another thought for you. How much do you think it costs for a NUCLEAR ship to run? New's flash, other than stores, payroll, and fuel for the planes, NOTHING until maintenance is needed.

      January 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Eric Jensen

    Interesting. I first read about the possibility of cutting a carrier in Bill Clinton's new book. He has lots of good ideas in there targeting the budget crises we have going on now.... for those interested. He also speaks to the common in all of us, not a partisan read.

    January 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Schweddy

      Does the book mention anything about getting bare BJs in the White House?

      January 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jeff

    @Geoff, spoken like a true USAF servicemember. Do you really think that aircraft carriers just launch airplanes? And what can your hypersonic plane do other than "get there in 2 hours"? Your grasp of the mission of aircraft carriers and military operations in general leave a lot to be desired. I don't doubt that we can reduce the number of carriers in our fleet, but you are way out of your league of understanding if you think that we can eliminate them. You have no clue what the Navy does.

    January 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chis

    Does anyone else want to see them launch a few of those cars off the carrier or is it just me?

    January 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Not the only one. Would be alot of redneck fun!

      January 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tankeryanker

      Lets!! 🙂

      January 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Portland tony

    Maybe someone who knows a little more about the actual missions of Carrier Battle Groups should have written this blog in the first place. And secondly, someone with a little background in Aircraft development could have discussed the difficulty in the designing of three separate Weapons Systems in a similiar airframe
    at one time. The differences between the three versions of the F-35 are immense. I think there is a parts commonality of about 60% which saves the military big bucks when buying spare parts and in repairs downstream. If the services buy all three versions, the savings in operational costs will save the tax payers billions over the life of the aircraft. But that's gonna be a political decision anyway.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pkfops

    Looks like the Marines jump in front of the Navy...........LOL

    January 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GOP is awsome. Just like sitting on a cactus.

    Obama is implementing cuts just like the tea-stupids wanted. But now, it still his fault just because his black.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. popeye1128

    Goes to show the quality of engineers we are putting out when they can't get the tailhook right. Very sad.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
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