US Navy seeks funds for Ford aircraft carrier even amid cost overruns

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 4:39am

The US Navy is seeking more money to develop its new Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier and is also sticking to its plan to buy more littoral combat ships, according to internal budget figures.

Both projects have been beset by ballooning costs. The navy's funding requests were due for release on Monday as part of the Pentagon's US$526.6 billion budget plan for the next fiscal year.

It asks for US$1.8 billion to fund the previously planned procurement of four littoral combat ships (LCS), built by Lockheed Martin and Austal teams, the same number funded in the current fiscal year. The price of the ship, which is intended to be a small, speedy vessel for use in shallow waters close to shore, has doubled since 2005 to US$440 million apiece.

The Pentagon's chief weapons tester has cited flaws with the ship's guns and questioned whether the LCS could carry on its mission after being hit in combat. A classified navy memo last year called on the service to consider a ship with more firepower after the first 24 are built.

The navy's request includes US$1.68 billion for continued development and construction on the Ford-class aircraft carrier programme, more than doubling this year's US$781.7 million request. Of that, US$945 million would bankroll continued design and construction of the second Ford-class carrier.

Debate about the carrier will intensify this year because the navy will ask Congress to increase a cost ceiling imposed on the first carrier in the fiscal 2007 defence authorisation bill. The ceiling is now US$11.8 billion.

Lieutenant Courtney Hillson, a navy spokeswoman, declined to comment on details of the spending plan, but said the navy was "committed to working more efficiently and cost-effectively in this resource-constrained environment".