Former President Donald Trump was fixated with the Navy’s supercarrier USS Gerald Ford, complaining to senior military officers that the $13billion ship ‘just doesn’t look right’ and bragged that he understood construction from his career as a real estate mogul, according to a new book.
‘I know aesthetics,’ Trump reportedly told senior military leaders when he told them he didn’t like the ship’s high cost, the advanced weapons elevators used to transport arms aboard, and the location of the ‘island’ – or command center – on the ship’s deck.
It is smaller and further back than on previous carriers. This was intended to provide more space for sorties – aircraft departures – as well as take into account the smaller number of sorties scheduled for the carrier over the course of its life.
As if to drive home the point about his ‘knowing aesthetics,’ Trump reportedly rubbed his own hair in front of senior military officers, saying: ‘Can’t you tell?’
‘The generals and admirals were horrible businessmen, Trump complained repeatedly, and particularly terrible at acquisition and deal making on ships, ensuring the military was always being ripped off,’ authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa write in their new book, Peril.
An excerpt of the book, which is due for release next week, was obtained by Business Insider.
In one meeting, Trump is reported to have complained that the advanced new weapons elevators were at risk of being flooded with water.
‘I know about elevators,’ Trump is quoted as saying to military leaders.
‘If water gets on them,’ they would malfunction, the then-president is reported to have said.
The 11 weapons elevators aboard the USS Gerald Ford have been one of the ship’s trouble spots since the supercarrier’s unveiling in 2013. It was formally commissioned by Trump in July 2017.
Former President Donald Trump complained to senior military officers that the $13billion ship USS Gerald Ford (seen in the above undated file photo) ‘just doesn’t look right’, and was unhappy about the position of its command center, known as its island
The former president was particularly irked by the placement of the ship’s command center – also known as the ‘island’ (seen above)
Trump was also reported to have favored the older Nimitz-class aircraft carriers due to their reliance on steam power to launch aircraft. The image above shows the USS Nimitz in the Indian Ocean in November 2020
The Nimitz, pictured in 2020, also has a larger island than the USS Gerald Ford
The USS Gerald Ford is the world’s largest aircraft carrier and the largest warship ever constructed in terms of displacement – which is measured at 100,000 long tons.
USS GERALD R. FORD
The USS Gerald R. Ford is a state of the art naval aircraft carrier successfully commissioned on July 22, 2017.
- It is 1,100 feet long, the length of three football fields
- It is one of three naval carriers with the same design commissioned by the US Navy, including the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), and the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80) costing approximately $42 billion total
- It’s specialized electromagnetic systems will reportedly allow planes to take off and land more quickly
- It carries a crew of 2,600 sailors
- It has 250 per cent more electrical capacity than previous models
- It is able to launch 33 per cent more aircraft
The elevators’ job is to move missiles and bombs from its weapons magazines up to the flight deck so that they can be then loaded onto aircraft for bombing missions.
When the ship was delivered to the US Navy in 2017, none of the 11 elevators were operational, according to Business Insider.
Since then, the Navy has gradually been bringing the elevators online. All of the elevators are scheduled to be fully operational by the end of this year, according to the military.
While the elevators were a source of problems on the ship, it was not because of water, as Trump had feared, but because of integration issues.
The book also reports that the former president was highly critical of the new aircraft carrier’s reliance on an electromagnetic aircraft launch system.
Trump complained that the new system was too complex and that ‘you have to go to MIT to figure out how this damn thing works,’ according to Woodward and Costa.
The former president is also reported to have once said: ‘You have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly.’
Unlike other aircraft carriers, the USS Ford launches planes off its decks and catches them upon landing via a high-tech Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and an Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).
Older carriers use a steam-driven catapult for propulsion and hydraulic-engine arresting gear.
Like the weapons elevators, the EMALS system has also experienced trouble since the ship’s delivery.
Earlier this year, Pentagon testers released a report indicating that the new technology was beset with flaws.
‘Poor or unknown reliability of new technology systems critical for flight operations,’ which include EMALS and AAG, could ‘adversely affect’ the USS Ford’s ability to carry out military sorties,’ wrote director of testing Robert Behler.
The assessment the report was based on included 3,975 launch and landing operations on the aircraft carrier during 11 post-delivery trials at sea, conducted from November 2019 through September 2020.
EMALS was expected to be able to carry out 4,166 launches before experiencing operational mission failures.
Instead, it managed just 181 cycles between failures, which Behler wrote was ‘well below the requirement.’
Everything you need to know about the USS Gerald Ford
About 5,000 shipbuilders have been involved in the construction of the Navy’s most expensive warship.
The USS Gerald R. Ford weighs almost 100,000 tons – or as much as 400 Statues of Liberty.
The ship has a five-acre flight deck, and holds 4,660 personnel and 75 aircraft, and was designed completely using 3D computer modelling.
A nuclear power plant designed to allow cruising speeds of more than 30 knots (34 miles per hour) and operation for 20 years without refueling.
It also has a smaller island that sits farther back on the ship to make it easier and quicker to refuel, re-arm and relaunch planes
It’s the most expensive warship ever built, costing nearly $13 billion. After eight years in development, the ship embarked on the first of its sea trials to test various state-of-the-art systems this past April
It has more than 10,000,000 feet of electronic cable built in.
There are two other ships in the Ford class: the USS John F. Kennedy and USS Enterprise. The total cost for the three vessels is estimated to be more than $43 billion.
The giant warship is 1,106-foot long and will be capable of launching 220 airstrikes per day from its two runways, while appearing almost invisible to radar detectors.
The USS Gerald R. Ford replaced the USS Enterprise, which was in service from 1962 to 2012.
The ship is able to launch so many airstrikes – one almost every six minutes – because the deck uses electromagnetic force to propel the jets forward. It is a similar method as used on roller coasters.
The vessel can carry more planes and operate with several hundred fewer sailors. Flying missions are expected to increase by a third.
The book claims that Trump was particularly irked by the location of the ship’s island.
‘It doesn’t look right,’ the former president is reported to have told military leaders, including General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
‘I have an eye for aesthetics.’
Trump is then reported to have rubbed his own hair and said: ‘Can’t you tell?’
According to the book, naval officers tried to explain to Trump that the island was placed at the rear of the ship in order to allow more space for the runway, making it easier for pilots to land the aircraft.
But the former president was reportedly not convinced by the officers’ explanations.
‘It just doesn’t look right,’ Trump is quoted as saying.
Trump (seen left in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday) repeatedly complained to military leaders, including General Mark Milley (right), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the design of the Navy supercarrier USS Gerald Ford, according to a new book
Trump would repeatedly complain about the design of the USS Ford whenever he would meet Milley and other senior officers, according to the book.
Milley, the authors wrote, had no choice but to let the president speak his mind without responding.
‘What was there to say,’ the book said.
‘The president did not like a ship’s look’ and Milley ‘had to endure it, just let him vent.’
Milley is a key figure in Peril as well as other books about the Trump era.
Supporters of Trump have called on him to resign and branded him a ‘traitor’ after Costa and Woodward revealed that the top US military officer spoke to his Chinese counterpart to reassure him that Washington had no plans to attack during the waning days of the Trump presidency.
Some in Congress accused Milley of having overstepped his authority and urged President Joe Biden to fire him, but Biden indicated Wednesday he stands behind Milley.
‘I have great confidence in General Milley,’ Biden said when asked by a reporter whether Milley had done the right thing.
In a written statement, Milley’s spokesman, Colonel Dave Butler, said Milley acted within his authority as the most senior uniformed adviser to the president and to the secretary of defense.
‘His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,’ Butler said.
‘All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.’
The book says Milley told General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a US attack.
The comments by Trump were reported by authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their new book, Peril, which is due out next week
Milley was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2019 by Trump and kept on by Biden.
In that position Milley does not command any troops but rather is an adviser to the president and to the secretary of defense.
John Kirby, spokesman for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said Austin has ‘complete and utter trust and confidence in General Milley.’
The book by Woodward and Costa reported that Milley, fearful of Trump’s actions in his final weeks as president, twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the United States was not going to attack China.
One call took place on October 30, 2020, four days before the election that Trump lost.
The second call was on January 8, 2021, less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration and just two days after the insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of Trump.
‘General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,’ Milley told him in the first call, according to the book.
‘We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.’
‘If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,’ Milley reportedly said.
In his statement Wednesday, Milley’s spokesman did not directly address this aspect of the call but said Milley regularly communicates with his counterparts across the globe, including in China and Russia, to reduce tensions, provide clarity and avoid ‘unintended consequences or conflict.’
Milley spoke with a number of other military leaders around the world after the January 6 riot, including from the United Kingdom, Russia and Pakistan.
A readout of those calls in January referred to ‘several’ other counterparts that he spoke to with similar messages of reassurance that the US government was strong and in control.
The second call was meant to placate Chinese fears about the events of January 6.
But the book reports that Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him: ‘We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.’
On Tuesday, Trump said Milley should be tried for treason if it was true that he had promised Li that he would warn him in the event of a US attack.
In a follow-up statement Wednesday, Trump called Milley ‘a complete nutjob’ and said he ‘never told me about calls being made to China.’
‘He put our Country in a very dangerous position but President Xi knows better, and would’ve called me,’ Trump added.
Milley believed the president suffered a mental decline after the election, agreeing with a view shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a phone call they had January 8, according to officials.
Milley also asked senior officers to swear an ‘oath’ that Milley had to be involved if Trump gave an order to launch nuclear weapons, according to the book.
In the statement Wednesday, Milley’s spokesman said Milley had conferred with the senior officers about nuclear weapons protocols ‘to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject.’
Butler, the spokesman, appeared to be referring to news reports of the January 8 Milley-Pelosi phone call.
Butler did not address whether Milley had insisted he be part of the nuclear weapons procedures.