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This is the $13 billion US Navy aircraft carrier Trump constantly complained looked 'really bad,' according to his former defense chief

Julie Coleman   

This is the $13 billion US Navy aircraft carrier Trump constantly complained looked 'really bad,' according to his former defense chief
  • The $13 billion aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford is a first-in-class ship and features a suite of new technologies.
  • Former President Donald Trump complained about the "look" of the aircraft on numerous occasions, according to his former defense secretary.

Former President Donald Trump liked to complain about "ugly" ships, and the US Navy's new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R Ford, was often the target of his criticisms, according to former officials, including his former defense secretary.

The $13 billion Ford is a first-in-class ship and is the world's largest aircraft carrier. It features a collection of new technologies, such as advanced weapons elevators, advanced arresting gear, and a electromagnetic aircraft launch system, among other upgrades over the Navy's older Nimitz-class carriers.

The former president complained often, both publicly and in private, about the viability of these new systems, insisting that the elevators would stop working if they got a drop of water on them or that the new catapults were too complex compared to the older steam catapults and required Einstein-level intelligence to operate.

He thought the ship would "never work," former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wrote in his new book, "A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times."

But above all, Esper wrote, Trump was consistently fixated on "the look" of the ship, different angles of which can be seen in the following US Navy photos.

Esper recalled visiting Norfolk, Virginia with Trump toward the end of his presidency to see off the USNS Comfort. As the former president admired the destroyers and other warships at the pier, he remarked "how beautiful" they looked before launching into a tirade complaining about the Ford.

"I had tried multiple times in the past to address these matters, but by now had given up," the former Pentagon chief reported.

Trump took particular issue with the position of the Ford's command center for flight operations and the ship overall, a structure commonly known as the "island." The island is a narrow structure that extends upward from the flight deck.

The island "looks really bad — it's stupid," Trump said, according to Esper, adding that the president suggested moving the command center closer to the middle of the ship. "Imagine the time and cost to do that," Esper wrote in his memoir.

Esper explained that Trump "would gesture with his hands, parallel to each other, farther apart, then closer," when discussing the island, "like a football referee measuring the distance in inches or feet to get a first down."

The Ford's design was the product of years of effort. Navy officers tried to explain that the command center was placed there for operational purposes, specifically making it easier to conduct flight operations, but Trump insisted "it doesn't look right," adding that he had "an eye for aesthetics," according to the book "Peril" by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that came out last year.

When Trump said he had an "eye for aesthetics," he reportedly rubbed his hands through his own hair and told his audience, which included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, "Can't you tell?"

Despite setbacks over the course of the ship's development, the Ford has gone through explosive shock trials and the necessary maintenance availabilities and should be ready for naval operations sometime this year. Three other Ford-class carriers, the John F. Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the Doris Miller, are in the works.


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