The US Navy received the first of its new generation aircraft carriers, USS Gerald R. Ford, on June 1, moving the $13 billion ship closer to becoming operational. It is expected to be commissioned this summer. Two other Ford-class carriers, the John F. Kennedy and Enterprise, are also planned. The ship can carry more aircraft, weapons and fuel with its larger flight deck and features the newly designed electromagnetic aircraft launch system. Once commissioned, the Ford will undergo a series of tests and is slated to be operational in 2020.
She carries 75-90 aircraft. Ships of the Ford class are intended to sustain 160 sorties per day for 30-plus days, with a surge capability of 270 sorties per day.
The leading NATO nations continue to build large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, which are the signature expression of military power. They have been a critical component of almost every major combat operation going back to WWII. The flattops are the tools to ensure sea dominance, power projection capability and intimidation of other countries, like Russia, for instance. Will the large ships be effective platforms to make Russia kneel? The answer is no. Not today.
The Russian Raduga Kh-22 carried by Tu-22M3 aircraft is a large, long-range anti-ship missile with an operational range of 600km (320nmi). In theory, with its range and the 1 ton (2,200 lbs) shaped-charge warhead the missile can cripple an aircraft carrier at a single blow. The warhead is powerful enough to make a 5m wide, 12m deep hole in the hull of any ship it strikes.
The Kh-32, an upgraded version of the Kh-22 capable of delivering a 1,000 kg conventional warhead or 1,000 kiloton nuclear warhead. Russia is finalizing its trials. The Kh-32 will also be carried by Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic bombers. The cutting-edge missile is virtually invulnerable to ground-based air defenses and interceptors of a potential adversary. Once launched, it climbs to an altitude of 40 km, to the stratosphere, to dive on the target at a steep angle. The missile is expected to have a firing range of up to 1,000 km compared to the 600 km for the Kh-22. It can reach speeds of no less than 5,000 kmh. The combination of speed and trajectory makes the Kh-32 almost invincible to enemy air defenses and interceptors.
In the documentary film (The Putin Interviews) shot by Oliver Stone about Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader mentioned a new missile with unique characteristic capable of many things, including overcoming any missile defenses. The missile in question is the 3M22 Zircon, a hypersonic missile that will travel 4,600 miles (7,400km) per hour — five times the speed of sound. It boasts a range of 250 miles. That’s just three minutes and 15 seconds from launch to impact.
State tests of Zircon are scheduled for completion in 2017 and the missile’s serial production is planned to be launched next year. Russia will be the only nation in the world to launch serial production of hypersonic weapons, leaving the US far behind. The first Zircons will be installed on sea platforms. According to Harry J. Kazianis, Executive Editor of The National Interest, such missiles could «could turn America’s supercarriers into multi-billion dollar graveyards for thousands of US sailors». Even a small-size ship armed with Zircons becomes a formidable foe for an aircraft carrier. No weapon to counter the Zircon exists as yet.
Full article: Russia’s New Weapons: Aircraft Carriers No Longer Rule the Seas (Strategic Culture Foundation)