Naval Air: January 21, 2004


The tenth and last of the Nimitz class carriers (CVN 77) will incorporate a lot of long awaited design changes. Although it will look like the other Nimitz carriers, the deck will be longer and wider. This will make it possible to store aircraft on deck without them hanging over the side. This, it was discovered can sometimes confuse the CIWS (Close in Weapons System, a computer controlled 20mm automatic cannon used as a last ditch defense against incoming anti-ship missiles.) 

The CVN 77 will have two elevators instead of three. The two elevators have been moved so that they can do the work of three. There are also more fueling stations on deck, so that the fueling crew won't have to drag fuel hoses across the deck so much. The ammunition elevators will also be moved to new locations, which will result in fewer ammo handlers being required, as they won't have to move bombs around as much as before. This "pit stop" approach to fueling and arming will require fewer people on deck, and make it safer for those who are there. The island has been shifted to the rear, and made taller and thinner. The main reason to keep the island at all is to have some place to mount the radars. But the new island will be have no admiral's bridge, just a small sitting room and visitor's bridge from which he can show guests what a carrier is like. The admirals quarters and staff spaces will now be below.

The changes in fueling and arming, and one less elevator, plus greater use of automation on board, will reduce crew size by about 500 sailors. This makes it possible to provide roomier accommodations for the crew. The Navy believes this carrier will be the last with a steam catapult; the next generation is expected to have an electro-magnetic system of some sort. This alone will cut crew size several hundred more. The next class of carriers, the CV(X), will make massive use of automation and more intelligent layout. This is expected to cut crew size from about 5,000 to 3,000. This will allow for even better living conditions, and more space for bombs and aviation fuel. The CV(X) will probably also use a lot of UCAV (unmanned combat aircraft), which will contribute to making the crew size smaller because 25-35 percent of the aircraft won't have crews. The UCAVs are easier to maintain, because there is no gear on board to take care of pilots. 


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