01:34 GMT +323 July 2018
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    The pre-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier is seen after a visit by US President Donald Trump in Newport News, Virginia

    US Navy Eyes Double Carrier Purchase in 2019 in Pursuit of 355-Ship Fleet

    © AFP 2018 / SAUL LOEB
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    Following a push by Congress urging the procurement of two aircraft carriers in fiscal year 2019, the United States Navy has asked shipbuilders to send in bids “to further define the cost savings achievable with a two-ship buy,” a March 20 news release reads.

    Some lawmakers say the goal to field a 355-ship fleet may depend on it. More than 100 lawmakers sent a letter to the Pentagon in late 2017 "to express interest in a dual procurement of Gerald R Ford-class aircraft carriers" in the coming fiscal year. The legislators said the government could save up to $2.5 billion by buying two carriers in the same year as a result of lower logistical costs.

    Buying two carriers "allows the Navy to build a fleet of 12 aircraft carriers more quickly as prescribed by the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act — which established that the Navy should maintain 355 ships, including 12 aircraft carriers," Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) said last December.

    "The Navy developed an acquisition strategy to combine the CVN-80 and CVN-81 procurements to better achieve the Department's objectives of building a more lethal force with greater performance and affordability," James Geurts, assistant secretary of the navy for research development and acquisition said in the March 20 announcement. CVN-80 and CVN-81 are the Navy's official designations for the two prospective carriers: CVN-80 will be the USS Enterprise; CVN-81 is not yet named. "This opportunity for a two-ship contract is dependent on significant savings that the shipbuilding industry and government must demonstrate."

    According to the US Navy, buying two ships at once was a strategy that was "effectively used in the 1980s to procure Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and achieved significant acquisition cost savings compared to contracting for the ships individually."

    The namesake ship in the Ford class, the USS Gerald R Ford, ran 20 percent over budget and more than a year behind schedule before being delivered in 2017, highlighting the service's struggle to control the costs of building an aircraft carrier.

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    Tags:
    Ford-class aircraft carriers, aircraft carriers, US Navy, Rob Wittman
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