President Trump said he has told the Navy to return to decades-old steam-powered catapult technology to launch aircraft from the new Gerald Ford-class aircraft carriers, rather than use a new digital launch system.
Trump’s comments came during an interview with Time magazine, released in excerpts Thursday, where he bashed the new Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and said the Navy would instead be “going to goddamned steam.”
“I said, ‘You don’t use steam anymore for catapult?’ ‘No sir.’ I said, ‘Ah, how is it working?’ ‘Sir, not good. Not good. Doesn’t have the power. 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.
“It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. 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. You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.’
EMALS, made by defense contractor General Atomics, is set to be used on Ford-class carriers, made by Huntington Ingalls Industries.
EMALS will replace the more than 60-year old steam-powered catapult systems used to launch airplanes. The steam systems take up more space on ships, are harder to maintain and can’t launch as many planes as electrical ones.
Huntington Ingalls and General Atomics referred questions on Trump’s comments to the Navy.
The Navy declined to comment.
The Navy has struggled with cost and schedule overruns on the new Ford-class carriers — growing from $27 billion to $36 billion in the last 10 years — prompting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2015 to call it “one of the most spectacular acquisition debacles in recent memory.”
But McCain said it was the “misalignment of accountability and responsibility in our defense acquisition system,” that caused the overrun, rather than technology issues.