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.

Post by:
Filed under: Marines • Military • Pentagon • U.S. Navy • United Kingdom
soundoff (455 Responses)
  1. Near Border

    Of course the military never heard of leasing cars. They ship these cars from Hawaii etc so that personnel can have a car. Would it not be cheaper to lease cars, term the lease when a soldier or sailor moves and have then take a new one at the next location. No that would be too logical for the military.

    January 17, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • RachelM

      My little Saturn made that trip, and no it would not be cheaper to lease cars for families. In the end, sending the cars by carrier is the cheapest way as the carrier has the room and is heading that way anyhow.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Logic fail
      Leasing cars would require them to cover the car and the insurance also. Are you suggesting we now saddle the military with both leasing and insuring cars for all military personnel? Would officers get better more expensive cars? When we could let the personal pay for their own (and the car of their choice)?

      January 17, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • KevinT

      Sailors and Soldiers are responsible for their own personal vehicles. Each sailor or soldier can lease a vehicle, however most don't qualify because of low pay. The DoD (Department of Defense) isn't going to lease a car for every sailor or soldier, it would cost WAY too much. The DoD will pay for the transportation of a sailors private vehicle to his / her new location, whether on orders or when the ship changes home port.

      It might be the cheapest way to transport the sailors cars on a home port change, but if they have to do flight ops – bye bye cars!

      January 17, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Outside the Box

      @Near Border: You are completely wrong. Do you really think that it is fiscally responsible for the Navy to lease 3000 cars for the sailors that are permanently stationed aboard? Transporting sailor's vehicles aboard costs close to nothing. I hope that you just misread the article; the carrier is not making a special trip just for the sailor's cars. The ship already has to make the transit from one port to another for a repair period; so it is only logical to bring their cars. Transporting personal vehicles belonging to military service members is something that I have done very often and since I work on US gov't owned / gov't operated ships, can you guess the cost of providing the service? $0.00 We refer this as a "cargo lift of opportunity", meaning we will do it only if it no impact to our mission and if we are going that way.
      I, however, could see your point if the Navy paid to transport service members vehicle on a commercial RO/RO (roll on/ roll off) ship. That cost would not be fiscally responsible for a temporary shift of port for to a repair period.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • NODAT1

      think before you type Do you actually think it would be ceaper to lease a POV then to ship a POV for the servicemen who are overseas.

      January 17, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      NODAT1, that "POV" is a car, or a vehicle, to the civilized world, whom you are communicating with. Keep your barbarian banter where it belongs.

      January 17, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Carguy

      Your thought of the military leasing cars for the troops is one of the most ludicris things I have read in any post. What they are doing is trasporting the vehicles that the troops already own. And as the article points out it is cheaper to put them on a U.S. Navy warship that is already going to the same port as the cars and the troops that own them. Other wise you would be paying a shipping company approximatly $500-$1000 each to have them shipped. You see there is no reason to "lease" cars for the troops as they already have thier own.

      January 17, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Cdawg


      January 17, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • SUBvEt

      You want the military to pay for the leasing of cars for the military to save money...there are thousands of sailors on one carrier. Average sea tour four a sailor is about 4-5 years. Thats alot of money bro!

      January 17, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • nvy30yrs

      I wonder how many people who have commented on here actually have SIGNIFICANT time SERVING in the military to know what really makes sense. How could one think that leasing 5000 vehicles for service members is cheaper than putting cars on a carrier that is already headed that way for a new home port, as is standard practice. BZ to the Navy for transporting the cars for those that serve on the ship.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillyBob117

      You really need to stop writing comedy scripts-–

      January 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. William

    I wonder how all those cars were lashed to the deck in case of heavy seas? Imagine the mess if all of them started shifting?

    January 17, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • sielingfan

      we're trying to save money so, Duct Tape.

      January 17, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Common

      Do you lash your car to the ground when you park it in a storm or on the side of a hill?

      January 17, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. gggg

    Let's see. Ship is going that way anyway. It has a built-in massive parking area between the decks and hangers. Sending the cars this way make absolute sense to me. What amazes me more is that somebody actually thought of this as a means of saving money and that it was done. Kudos on this one.

    As to the other thing. How many BILLIONS of dollars ago was it apparent that this thing would be inadequate for carrier use? Doing nothing about that is as stupid as leasing cars for the 5000 crew members of an aircraft carrier would have been.

    January 17, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • IG88

      Excellent question. The F35 program was supposed to design a variant for each service. You'd think that carrier launching would be near the top of the list of items to do for the Navy, even Marine Corps. This especially after the issue the F18s had when they first came out where the airframes needed an upgrade to cope with stresses from arrestor gear. The Marines do get a vertical launch capable variant but still you need aircraft to be able to launch horizontally to save fuel when the craft are heavily laden as the Navy would need from carriers.

      January 17, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Stunning

      How is it that we can get this far through the design and production process and miss something this basic?

      January 17, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. hank

    I am surprised to see that it is a congressional law that 11 Air craft carriers be maintained. I thought we had 5-6, not 11. I think we could park a few and just keep them in waiting. We need to save money and get back on track. Unfortunately, we are so far down the hole we have to make tough choices like this...AND, i thought it was smart for them to use the carrier to carry cars (Now that is smart thinking to save money!!!!)

    January 17, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Outside the Box

      @ Hank: We have 5 on the East and 6 on the West coast of the US.

      January 17, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • ThomJeff

      Also factor in that not every carrier can be at sea at the same time and they need to be rotated for personnel, maintenance, etc., you get an adequate ready-force for both oceans with 11 total. Some will say 10 would be ok too, but anything less than that and you lose the ability to be anywhere anytime.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KentuckyHiker

    Did you guys just totally miss the boat on this article?? Who cares about the navy moving soldiers cars from point A to point B. What about the jet that is possibly useless to the Navy?? Talking about a total waste of taxpayer dollars!!!

    January 17, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • bigdawg

      Exactly! Please see my post below!

      January 17, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. NODAT1

    this is nothing new The Military has hashed this around years ago but do to DOD civi workers providing brother-in-law and good ol boy contracts it was put down on paper that it was cheaper for a shipping company ratherthen utulize the unused space in navel ships for the shipment of POV

    January 17, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Don

    Just another example of why the military in this country needs to be severely downsized. They have gotten so used to being able to waste tax dollar after tax dollar I think a few years at 5% of their budget might teach some of those Generals who have not been off their backsides for so long that if they do not have a brain they need to get out of the Pentagon. And with less money to waste more of them will leave because there won't be so many kick backs coming their way.

    January 17, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. bigdawg

    Re the F35: Does anyone remember that old poster of the railroad line being laid and only one rail met the opposing rail?
    The caption was "Oh S#!$" Looks as if we have another of those moments!

    January 17, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. sielingfan

    The F-35B demonstrates VTOL capabilities, which mean (with the proper modifications) a destroyer could feasibly carry and launch a four-ship flight. If the C-model is impractical, the A- and B-models remain highly effective. The B-model (vertical landing) eliminates the need for the cable altogether, albeit at the cost of a smaller payload. At least the Air Force got it right - the F-35A is outstanding.

    January 17, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      Oviously you have never been on a destroyer....they are too small and roll too much to safely operate even one F-35

      January 17, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • sielingfan

      well you got me there. I'm just thinking of the JSDF's "carriers," which launch a pair of choppers each, but were widely speculated to accept the JSF VTOL variant down the road. Caused sort of a row with China, for whatever that's worth... I guess my real point is, we've been using super-carriers for decades because VTOL didn't exist. It's no longer impossible to launch a valuable sortie from a smaller vessel.... Factor in hypersonic bombers and RPA overwatch, and you really don't need heavy strike packages out of the naval component anymore. So if not a destroyer, then something else... but the "Carrier Battlegroup" as a unit of power projection can start to fade as soon as we let it. We'll be safer from the Chinese anti-naval missiles with smaller, iterative and dispersable carrier vessels anyway. Might even be cheaper to operate, too. Who knows.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillyBob117

      Except for the stress fractures in the 35A wings--

      I am not an expert, but why build a fighter with ony one engine? I would think the majority of pilots would want to go into battle with two engines-–

      January 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sielingfan

      That's true enough.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. NoodleHat

    I am a jelly doughnut!

    January 17, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Stewie

    They could make some real money for defense if they did a couple runs to Korea for Hundai's. Since they're nuclear...no big additional costs to Gov't

    January 17, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. Navyvet8192

    I love reading the writings of civilians who have never actually been on a carrier complaining about the waste. Many of these guys make less per month than the whining civilian makes in a week. If the military didn't issue you a car in boot camp, they aren't going to lease you one while your boat is in the yards. The Navy doing this isn't just a huge cost savings, it's an immeasurable morale booster for a crew who knows they are about to go into some horrific work hours and conditions for the next several months to years.

    January 17, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Easy E

      No one is complaining about the military pay system, we are angry that we've spent the equivalent annual GDP of Brazil on a weapon system that still is a total POS after 15 years and that no one is going to lose their job over it.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. den1112

    A twin-engine jet would be a better fit for the Navy.

    January 17, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • den1112

      Less chance of ending-up in the drink, or becoming a P.O.W.

      January 17, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. AJ

    I thought the F-35 was VTOL?

    January 17, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • sielingfan

      The B-model is. That variant has significant constraints on payload and stealth capabilities - things that won't bother the Corps. very much, but the Navy and Air Force found unfavorable for their respective mission sets.

      January 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    I am surprised they cannot find an engineer who cannot Macgyver a solution to the tail hook. It sounds more to me that the contractor is trying to get more money for a fix they have already developed. Because really, this is a duh. After all, we have been doing carrier landings for like 75 years now. Because if this cannot be fixed, the contractor should be made to pay the entire cost of redesigning the plane to allow carrier landings.

    January 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • sielingfan

      now there's a thought.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15