"We have a need for two carriers — that work," Inhofe told reporters Monday outside the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, where the Ford-class carriers are built. "If this were a first delay, I wouldn't be as concerned."
The Navy accepted delivery of the USS Ford, a 100,000-ton super carrier that can carry an air wing of more than 75 aircraft, in May 2017, and since then has been working out the kinks of the ship's new technologies, which include an EMALS electromagnetic catapult for launching planes, a first for US ships. The corrections have put the already over-budget and behind-schedule ship only further in the hole.
However, it emerged last month that the ship had been delivered without working bomb elevators, which are used to shuffle weapons from storage below decks up to where they can be mounted on planes. The carrier should've had 11 such lifts, but "unsafe ‘uncommanded movements'" by the elevators have left them "in varying levels of construction and testing," according to William Couch, a spokesperson for the Naval Sea Systems Command.
While six elevators will be certified for use by the time the ship completes its post-delivery shakedown phase in July, the other five won't be complete until after then, Navy spokesperson Capt. Danny Hernandez told Bloomberg Wednesday.
The Ford is to be the first in a new class of ships that will replace the aging Nimitz-class carriers. The next ship, John F. Kennedy, has already begun construction, and the third carrier, Enterprise, is slated to do so in 2020. The Navy has already secured these contracts and had planned to order carriers four and five as part of a single massive contract, which the service says would save $2.5 billion. But Inhofe, who now heads the US Senate's Armed Services Committee, isn't sure Huntington Ingalls should be trusted with the task if it can't even deliver the ships with working essential parts like bomb elevators.
"I think the case for two right now is weaker because of the lack of success in getting everything working" on the Ford," he said Monday. Inhofe told reporters he isn't opposed to the idea of a double-buy in principle, but that the ships need to work, too.
"They spent most of their time down there telling me what a great thing" the carrier is, "and I'm sure it is," he continued. Noting that Navy officials boasted of their correct launch system, which had performed more than 700 successful launches, Inhofe said, "All that's great and good, but still, the elevators still don't work."
"I feel a little uncomfortable saying, 'Let's go ahead, and let's get two, and everything is going to be fine,'" he said, according to Bloomberg.