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The Navy's New Carrier Has an Expensive Toilet Problem

By Lou Whiteman - Mar 24, 2020 at 1:42PM

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Clogs can cost up to $400,000 to fix.

Huntington Ingalls (HII 0.89%) new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier was designed to be a technical marvel, but it has been mostly an engineering headache so far due to issues with its catapults, elevators, and radar systems. It also has unreliable toilets that can cost upwards of $400,000 apiece to clean, according to a new report.

The toilet systems on the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS George H.W. Bush clog frequently and need to be cleaned with a special blend of acids that come at a high price, according to a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report obtained by Bloomberg.

A look across the bow of the USS Ford carrier.

The USS Gerald R Ford at sea. Image source: Huntington Ingalls.

The toilets are similar to what is used on commercial aircraft, but the refuse has much longer to travel through the ship and is causing unexpected clogging as a result.

The two carriers are the first of a planned 10 ship order, part of the Navy's broader goal of expanding the fleet in the years to come. But the carriers are expensive, at more than $12 billion apiece, and the Navy is going to have to figure out how to both pay defense contractors for new ship construction and manage ongoing maintenance if it expands.

The toilets were but one example the GAO used in highlighting upwards of $130 billion in underestimated long-term Navy maintenance costs.

While the toilets are unlikely to sink the carrier program, it is another black eye for a vessel that has been marred with cost overruns and delays. Spiraling costs could make it less likely that the Navy orders the full 10 hulls it originally planned, a potential risk to Huntington Ingalls' long-term growth forecasts.

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