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The USS Gerald R. Ford Takes US Aircraft Carriers to Pass the Digital Age

Did you know that the last class of US aircraft carriers was launched in 1968? Talk about a long time ago— that’s forty five years ago and it’s time for a new model with a new platform. That is precisely what the Gerald R. Ford carrier represents. The world has changed dramatically ever since 1968. In fact, 1968 was around the time the internet was first being developed by the US military’s DARPA network. It’s quite interesting to note that the internet has exploded since its commercial adoption in 1995 but the aircraft carrier technology up until just very recently is still stuck in 1968.

Well, it has all changed with the launch of the Gerald R. Ford. This is a huge aircraft carrier. Talk about massive proportions: one thousand eighty feet long, a hundred feet high and its deck is a wide two hundred fifty feet and the ship took over forty seven thousand tons of steel to put together. This is a massive undertaking but what’s even more massive is the way it was made. It was made using collaborative technologies so the plans for the ship are shared by the navy and its contractors as well as its subcontractors in 3D as the ship was being built. This collaborative approach sounds very similar to social network technologies and modern project management technologies.

As you can well imagine, a lot of the tradition, inefficiencies and cost overruns were handled by the system. Another thing that is really innovative about this aircraft carrier is that it uses the CVN 78 infrastructure, meaning that it is more flexible and it can easily move around internal components of the ship. Instead of building the ship with an eye towards the design never changing for the next fifty years, it uses a more flexible and modular architecture so this can help the navy because instead of costly reworking and redesign in the future, they can keep building on this platform in moving things around. This saves a lot of time, effort and money.

All told, the ship has a projected life of fifty years but don’t let that life span fool you. It can definitely be extended because the ship is modular so they just need to change several items around or change the platform to extend the ship’s life. Overall, the USS Gerald R. Ford design embodies a lot of the innovation, design and manufacturing technology that were honed during the age of the internet, social media and advanced project management.