13 May, 2017
President Donald Trump wants "goddamned steam" power catapults on the Navy's new Ford-Class aircraft carriers, not a new electromagnetic power system, according to Trump's interview this week with Time magazine.
The preference for steam "blindsided" Navy officials, The Atlantic reported.
The Navy declined to comment. The Ford is expected to be commissioned and delivered to the Navy within a month, and will be followed by similar carriers named the John F. Kennedy and the Enterprise.
"It sounded bad to me", Trump told Time. On its website, the company said EMALS offers benefits over the Navy's current launch system, including such things as "reduced manning and life-cycle cost" as well as "increased launch operational ability for manned, unmanned aircraft". Not good. Doesn't have the power. The Navy has said the system would be able to put planes in the air more quickly than steam catapults, cost less to maintain over the carrier's lifetime and cause less physical stress to the vessel. "The digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money, and it's no good'". Probably because steam looks cooler, but could it be the president feels threatened by the "digital" option-the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System. 'Well, we're going to this because we wanted to keep up with modern [technology]'. You know the steam is just brutal. "You see that sucker going and steam's going all over the place, there's planes thrown in the air, '" Trump said in the interview.
General Atomics holds the contract to supply that system to not only the Ford, but the Navy's two following carriers in that class.
"You know the catapult is quite important", Trump told Time. I said what system are you going to be-"Sir, we're staying with digital".
In the excerpt - TIME did not publish a transcript - Trump recounts a conversation with an unnamed individual about EMALS, which the president refers to as a digital system.
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The Gerald R. Ford is now undergoing a series of sea trials. Traditionally, they've been powered by steam, but newer versions are using electromagnets - something Trump is against.
And I said - and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers - I said what system are you going to be- 'Sir, we're staying with digital.' I said no you're not.
A Pentagon report for fiscal year 2016 said, "Poor or unknown reliability of the newly designed catapults, arresting gear, weapons elevators, and radar, which are all critical for flight operations, could affect (the Ford's) ability to generate sorties, make the ship more vulnerable to attack, or create limitations during routine operations".
Plus the Ford has the EMALS system for a reason: It confers a whole bevy of advantages over its steam-powered predecessor, Andrew Holland of the American Security Project said.
I called up defense expert Peter W. Singer of New America (which is a partner with Slate and Arizona State University on Future Tense) who affirmed the potential benefits of EMALS.
He also pointed out that China will likely incorporate EMALS-type technology into the generation of aircraft carriers after the one they're now developing.