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Pentagon Orders Review of $13 Billion Warship

The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer is undertaking a review of the Navy’s newest class of aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, raising questions about the warship’s ability to perform as advertised.

A memo on the carrier, from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, suggests that the Navy may be forced to make changes to the USS Ford, according to a Navy official.

Ben Hansen, Jessica Hansen
People take photographs in front of the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford for the christening of the ship at the Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, Nov. 9, 2013. Steve Helber / AP

However, with the carrier scheduled for delivery in three months, it is “highly unlikely” that any changes will be possible, the official said.

The review of the $12.9 billion program was outlined in an August 23 memo, which was first reported by Bloomberg News.“With the benefit of hindsight, it was clearly premature to include so many unproven technologies,” Kendall wrote in the memo, according to Bloomberg.

Related: Navy Christens Supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford

A Navy spokesman acknowledged that the USS Ford has faced “challenges.”

“However, the capabilities resident on the Ford are needed now and in the future,” said Commander Mike Kafka, a Navy spokesman. “And the Navy will continue to work hard to get Ford completed and into the fleet, paying close attention to both new and legacy systems.”

The Ford is the first of a new class of carriers, which will eventually replace the Nimitz class, meaning that new warship will face rigorous testing.

“Capturing lessons learned and continuing to mature technology will be important to ensure follow-on ships proceed on schedule and budget,” said Kafka. “This remains a major focus of effort for the Navy and the entire industry team.”

The review of the Ford comes as another Navy ship program, the Littoral Combat Ship suffered another embarrassment this week.

On Monday the crew aboard the USS Coronado had to abort a transit through the western Pacific and return to Pearl Harbor after the ship experienced a mechanical problem.

While the U.S. Navy has only six Littoral Combat Ships in their inventory, four of them have suffered engineering or design issues in less than a year. The other two ships have not yet been commissioned.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson acknowledged that this was the fourth issue in the last year.

“These issues are all receiving our full and immediate attention, both individually and in the aggregate," he said adding that “in light of recent problems, we also recognize more immediate action needs to be taken,” and he supports a plan to retrain and certify all Littoral Combat Ship sailors who work in engineering.