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Abstract

The U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers allow the nation to deter adversaries, bring airpower to bear against opponents, engage friends and allies, and provide humanitarian assistance. However, these powerful and versatile systems need continuous and regularly scheduled maintenance, and their crews require a great deal of training to attain and sustain readiness levels. The length of the carrier’s training, readiness, deployment, and maintenance cycle, the type of maintenance needed, and the timing of events within the cycle affect the carrier’s availability to meet operational needs. Over the past two decades, the proportion of time in a cycle that a carrier spends deployed has decreased, making it difficult for Navy planners to meet the forward-presence requirements of theater commanders. In future years, as the number of carriers in the fleet fluctuates, this challenge will be compounded. In this study, RAND examines the technical feasibility of different cycle lengths and their effect on the forward presence of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The authors assess several one- and two-deployment cycles, assuming a deployment length of six months and a time-between-deployments length equal to twice the duration of the previous deployment. The study also presents an analysis of the impact of different cycles on managing shipyard workloads. Among many findings, RAND concludes that shorter cycles can increase the forward presence of the carrier fleet and help level shipyard workloads. However, these shorter cycles will decrease fleet surge readiness. Longer, two-deployment cycles can increase forward presence, but may result in shipyard workload complications and deferred-work backlogs.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Past, Current, and Potential Carrier Cycles

  • Chapter Three

    The Impact of Different Cycles on Operational Availability

  • Chapter Four

    The Impact of Different Cycles on the Maintenance Industrial Base

  • Chapter Five

    Findings and Recommendations

  • Appendix

    Workload Graphs for the Norfolk and Puget Sound Naval Shipyards

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Navy. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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