Uncool. No.

When you’re a blogger, you wind up collecting ideas and sitting them on a shelf, “use this one if you need a hook to talk about art” or “oh, look, cops lying again!” This posting is going to give me a chance to dredge out a bit of wonderfulness that I should have shared with you all a lot sooner.

Being the horrible cynic that I am, I must couple all wonderfulness with dreadfulness, so the world does not spin out of balance on its axle.

As someone who enjoys building things, I cannot imagine how incredibly awesome it must be to be part of building a nuclear aircraft carrier. I have a friend who works at Newport News, who says that the facility there is amazing (I need to go visit someday!) – if you want to get an idea of what building a modern military ship is like, read The Yard [wc]; it’s about building an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which is a much smaller ship than an aircraft carrier.

The new US Gerald Ford class aircraft carriers are boondoggles aircraft carriers designed to project American power and glory for the 21st century. So far, they are a failure. The first of the class has had notoriously inoperable launch catapults and utility elevators; they are so bad that the navy has resorted to rotating armies of contractors though the problem, hoping that someone will be able to get everything working.

Everything points toward the same procurement problem as the F-35: you start building it (and paying for it!) before it works, with a plan to eventually get everything fully operational a year or two after the ship was declared “operational” for budgetary reasons. “Is that ship ‘operational’ or operational?” “Sir, it’s ‘double plus secret handshake operational.” What does that mean, it floats? So, while the first one, the Gerald Ford is a floating construction-zone in progress, the navy’s imperial requirements are to have nearly a dozen such ships. The only way to get there is to be constructing the next boondoggle while the previous boondoggle is still being shaken out. There’s no way that’s good, because if the builders manage to learn something in the course of getting the Gerald Ford operational, they’ve just built a new ship with the old problem and are going to have to immediately retro-fit it with the new solution.

Imagine if you bought a new operating system and the first thing it did, upon being installed, was to re-install itself with gigabytes of patches? Oh, wait, that’s not the best example is it.

The John F Kennedy has been floated. It’s not a usable aircraft carrier, yet, but some major milestones have to be accomplished while the ship is floating (I assume that has something to do with balance): [bi] Plus, December 7!

Most recently, on October 29, the ship’s dry dock was flooded officially launching the aircraft carrier approximately three months early to the original schedule. PCU John F. Kennedy will be christened at Newport News Shipbuilding-Huntington Hills Industries in Newport News on December 7.

The navy appears to have gotten an amateur graphic designer, perhaps some flag officer’s geeky nephew who has a few months’ experience with Illustrator, to make a logo for the ship:

Perhaps it is also a work-in-progress and they plan to pare it down, clean it up graphically, and ditch the overuse of bitmaps.

Let me show you how this is done, people. A while back, our own Great American Satan [gas] had an opening to do some graphic design, so I decided to support their work by commissioning a logo for my non-existent ship (being non-existent, it is slightly more battle-worthy than the John F. Kennedy. If you recall, I have spent a great deal of time playing Elite:Dangerous and did some pretty hardcore exploring back before I quit. The role-play aspects of that game were one of my favorite parts (role-play being necessary because otherwise there was not much to the game except space trucking with great graphics) – my explorer-ship, the M/V Longshot, was a legend in my own mind, having gone to the galactic core twice: once out of curiousity, the second time hauling a jerry-can of fuel to someone who had forgotten to top up their tank. Longshot found a bunch of earth-like worlds, found supermassive black holes, and generally collected a great deal of wear and tear.

Sorry, US Navy, mine is so much better. Maybe you should hire a real graphic designer.

There are companies on the internets that will go from vectors to actual object in a few days, so I had some patches made and one of them is now stuck on my Fuel Rats flight suit, hanging up in my closet. For a while I was swapping emails with some of the old Fuel Rats and we were thinking of starting a tradition of swapping ship patches, like calling cards. I had a batch made in flexible 3D PVC like all the other Fuel Rats tchotchkes. [linxcorp] But, I’ve sort of fallen out of the Elite: Dangerous scene and have stopped going to the conferences, etc. Mostly because I hate travel. If any of you feel a burning need to have a Longshot patch, contact me with an address and I’ll send you one for your curio shelf. I expect a flood of requests from envious crewmembers of supercarriers.

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Because I am a super-duper patriotic team player, I did a little graphic design update on the John F Kennedy‘s ship patch, gratis. What do you think, US Navy?

NPR on the launch of the John F Kennedy: [npr]

Hicks says there are about 5,000 shipyard employees working on the ship now, but that about 10,000 people have worked on the ship over the life of the project. The Kennedy represents about 55 million human working hours, according to Hicks.

Build wind power generators or wave-power generators with that level of effort and you might be done already.


  1. Dunc says

    the navy’s imperial requirements are to have nearly a dozen such ships

    What the hell do they need eleven* supercarriers for? Even assuming only half of them are operational at any one time, you probably shouldn’t need more than 2 in any one theatre… Is the US planning on fighting a war against literally everyone else on Earth or something?

    (* I assume it’s eleven, because if it was ten you’d have just said “ten”, and I figure it has to be an integer. Although that last assumption may be suspect…)

  2. says

    Is the US planning on fighting a war against literally everyone else on Earth or something?

    Methinks that Dunc sees clearly.

    From watching the events surrounding Russia’s unfortunate only carrier, Kuznetsov, the US Navy appears to have realized that it needs to have a dozen. That way 3 or 4 can be in various stages of “incomplete” or “borked” at any given time and they’ll still have a huge force.

    There’s probably a fascinating story in this, waiting to be unscrewed, but it’s a story that would be infuriating and filthy. At some point someone (probably a boat-builder lobbyist) realized that the navy was going to wise up and realize it did not need a dozen supercarriers. So they went and got congress to pass a law requiring the navy to have a dozen supercarriers – i.e.: lobbying reached over the navy’s head and got congress to micro-manage the navy budget. It’s like that Far Side cartoon (“if this works we’re set for life!”) with the spiders. And: it worked.

    The navy doesn’t even think it can build that many supercarriers before 2060, which is around the time that the deck catapults of the Gerald Ford are expected to be working.


    PS – the Kuznetsov is still listed as “under refit” a year after the crane collapsed onto its deck. It’s looking less and less likely that the ship will ever sail again. Which means Russia has no aircraft carriers at all, removing one of the US navy’s flimsy justifications for a dozen supercarriers. I think the Brits and the French are the only credible navies left, and a single US carrier task force could sink either of them pretty easily.

  3. xohjoh2n says

    I think the Brits and the French are the only credible navies left

    *snork*. Perhaps first you could tell the RN the one single job an aircraft carrier is supposed to perform – they appear to have forgotten…

  4. ColeYote says

    > I think the Brits and the French are the only credible navies left,

    Eh, not sure about that, I get the sense the China’s navy and Japan’s legally-not-a-navy-but-totally-a-navy are pretty legit.

  5. says

    The USN operates under a legal requirement to keep either 3 (or possibly 2?) carrier groups at sea at any given time.

    The USN claims that it needs 11 carriers to meet the requirement that 3 be battle-ready at any given time.

  6. Jazzlet says

    The first thing I thought when I saw the Kennedy logo was “that’s not going to scale down for patches”.

    Well if you assume that the function of the US navy is to provide jobs for thousands of people who aren’t actually in the navy, rather than to be a functional warship, I’m sure the carriers will be a great expense success.

  7. dangerousbeans says

    It would almost be funny when these get sunk when the US picks a vaguely even fight, if it weren’t for the giant waste of resources and the cost in people’s lives :/

  8. springa73 says

    In the 19th century I believe that the British navy had a rule that they needed to be more powerful than the #2 and #3 navies combined in order to guarantee the safety of the U.K. The US seems to operate on a similar principle, except that it needs to be dominant in all areas of the armed forces, not just the navy.

  9. says

    In the 19th century I believe that the British navy had a rule that they needed to be more powerful than the #2 and #3 navies combined in order to guarantee the safety of the U.K.

    Yes, that was the policy until the Germans decided that their navy had to be bigger. At which point there was an industrial arms-race that ended at Jutland.

  10. Who Cares says

    @Patrick Slattery(#7):
    Wouldn’t be the first time that it happened in a training/ war game. The Dutch did it as well in 1999 (JTFEX 99-1). It seems diesel-electric subs are really hard to find under the right circumstances.

  11. says

    Who Cares@#12:
    Diesel/electric or the new Stirling thermal engine boats, can be incredibly quiet . But they are not fast and are short-ranged. All that spells: “defensive” – aggressive navies like the US and maybe China really really hate the idea that there may be strategically placed holes in the water full of torpedoes.

    You can tell what a military’s purpose is by its logistics.

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