A US Navy study has concluded that its next generation aircraft carrier, the CVX, must be able to support conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) and short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.

The study also says that the USN's future carrier-deployed air wing must total at least 55 aircraft if all critical missions are to be handled. Today's USN carriers generally operate at sea with an air wing consisting of 76 fixed wing aircraft and six helicopters.

The USN will need another Nimitz-class carrier, the CVN-77, to replace the conventionally powered Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in 2008. The CVN-77 will act as a transition ship to the new-design CVX-78, which may not be a nuclear powered carrier.

The next generation carrier's size and design will be influenced by the type and number of aircraft that it will carry.

Catapults and arresting gears will be required for the operation of today's CTOL aircraft, such as the Boeing F/A-18E/F. Meanwhile, the Joint Strike Fighter project will yield a carrier-capable CTOL aircraft for the USN and a STOVL aircraft for the US Marine Corps.

The first phase of a study of CVX alternatives was completed last year, with the analysis examining trade-offs of future aircraft carriers, including air wing sizes and required aircraft types.

"The assessment concluded that carrier designs supporting STOVL-only aircraft would not be practical," says the US Department of Defense.

The second phase of the so-called CVX Analysis of Alternatives, which is expected to be completed next year, will address detailed design trade-offs, including propulsion alternatives.

The first CVX carrier would be procured in financial year 2006, entering the fleet in 2013 as the replacement for the Enterprise (CVN-65).

Source: Flight International