Sunday, July 28, 2013

On the USS Gerald R Ford, the Most Expensive Ship Ever

Over at Business Insider:

USS GERALD R. FORD: Check Out The Construction Of The Most Expensive Ship Ever Nice pictures.

To quote: “The numbers behind the USS Gerald R. Ford are impressive; about $14 billion in total cost, 224 million pounds, about 25 stories high, 1,106 feet long and 250 feet wide. But the sheer enormity of the ship and construction operation is hard to grasp until you're nearly face-to-metal with the massive military beast.”

Whew!  That $14 Billion is up from $4.5 to $6.2 billion for  the Nimitz class aircraft carrier it is replacing.  And a nice write up over at wikipedia:

Meanwhile,  the planes it flies (from Reuters):
“The new baseline forecasts the average cost of the F-35 fighter, including research and development (R&D) and inflation, at $135 million per plane, plus an additional $26 million for the F135 engine built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp

Again:”The new FORD-class aircraft carrier will be the largest, most lethal ship ever when it joins the US fleet in 2016.”

Well, counting its planes.  It will also be the largest, most delectable target, ever, when it joins the US fleet.  Carrying say 90 F35s, costing $160 Million apiece, it will be an investment costing over $28 Billion.  Say $30 Billion.  That’s about 300,000 man-years, or 7000 man-lives, of production.  That is a sunk cost, which is paid whether or not the ship itself actually sinks.  Never mind the annual expense of operating the thing.  If comparable to the Nimitz class, we can expect annual costs of upwards  $350 Million, counting the midlife overhaul, averaged over the years.  Say $1 Million per day.

Anyway, the life’s labor of 7000 men.  Gone.

What else is gone? After all, cost is lost opportunity, what wasn’t built, or was left undone; what those 7000 men maybe should have been doing with their lives.  Well, 1500 high schools, at $20 Million apiece to build. (One F35 figures in at 8 high schools.)  Or 300,000 houses at $100,000 apiece, although some might argue we don’t need any more of those.  

Or power plants enough to provide 6 to 10 thousand megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 3 to 5 million homes with power.

And Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to save (most of) New York City from rising sea levels (for a while) was only $20 Billion, but hey, isn’t global warming some sort of delusion?


  1. We estimated the continuing operating expenses of the USS Gerald R Ford at about $1 Million per day. In terms of labor this is about 3650 people working full time to support the ship. ($100,000 per person per year. This works out to about $275 per worker per day for the productivity of the US labor force.) These aren't the men serving on the ship, or on the bases supporting it. These are the people in the factories and farms producing the goods and services necessary to keep the ship afloat and operational. This is also the lost opportunity cost of things not done, since these people could be put to other, more productive uses. Of course, this is not a change in cost, since the Ford will be replacing another, older, carrier. Indeed, the Ford is supposed to be cheaper to operate than these other older, carriers, but we are positing other, increased inefficiencies.

    1. Apparently, the cutting edge carrier USS Gerald R Ford is- over the edge.
      2019. We are two years into sea trials, with no end in sight. Not cheaper at all, it seems. The article discussing trashing a working vessel to free up limited dry dock space to work on ships which might- 'yet' be made to be operational. Oh Kay.