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NAVSEA: Advanced Arresting Gear Design Flaw Delayed Testing Schedule Two Years, Adds Risk to On Time Ford Carrier Delivery

An artist's conception of an installed Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on a U.S. carrier. General Atomics Image

An artist’s conception of an installed Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on a U.S. carrier. General Atomics Image

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A design flaw in the system the Navy plans to help safely recover aircraft onboard its next generation Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier has set testing for the program back two years and risks extending the delivery of the ship past its March 31, 2016 deadline, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) officials told reporters on Thursday.

The General Atomics built Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) was found to have a design flaw that set testing at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, N.J. back two years, according to the head of Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers Rear Adm. Tom Moore.

“We are about two years behind where we should be up at Lakehurst in terms of having the systems installed and testing it with real aircraft,” he said.
“Right now my major concern on Ford is AAG. I have to get equipment installed. It’s now all arrived at the shipyard. The shipyard is installing the equipment now and concurrently with that I have to get Lakehurst to start testing the upgraded system.”

The flaw was found in the AAG’s water twister — a complex paddle wheel that is designed to absorb 70 percent of the force when the tailhook of a landing aircraft pulls against an arresting wire to come to a stop.

“Doing a detailed engineering assessment we recognized the water twister was under designed,” Moore said.
“GA was responsible for the design — remember they’re on a firm fixed price contract — so the vendor was responsible for the fix.”

Now a newly repaired AAG is under going jet sled tests in Lakehurst while at the same time a separate upgraded version is being installed on Ford.

“We’re a lot more confident the system as it’s currently built will work but it’s important that Lakehurst gets through the jet car test site and we go to a second phase called runway assisted landing system — that’s where they land real aircraft. Those two event at Lakehurst I’ll be watching very carefully,” Moore said.
“If Lakehurst uncovers something on the system that has to be fixed, the risk I’m taking is I’m installing it and then I have to go back and fix something that’s all ready installed, it’s more challenging. Really at this point, I don’t have a choice. “

On the other end of the carrier, the GA built Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is doing comparatively better.

“Two of the four catapults are completely built and the other two are almost built and we started below deck testing on what we call the energy storage group in August and we met every key event date for testing on EMALS,” Moore said.
“I’m confident EMALS is progressing on track. The next big event is in the June timeframe when we’ll start shooting dead-load sleds into the James River.”
Absent hang-ups, the $12.9 billion Ford is set to deliver on March 31, 2016. The next ship in the class — John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) — will deliver on June 22, 2022.

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  • publius_maximus_III

    So… we can launch them, just can’t retrieve them. Sounds like a missile system to me.

    • old guy

      Maybe we can sell them to somebody that wants KAMIKAZE launches.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Yes, perhaps ISIS… or HAMAS. It could be the Mother of all Kamikaze suicide vests. ALLLAAA…All-ee all-ee-in-come-free (ululation sounds).

    • Secundius

      @ publius_maximum_III

      I was thinking more in the lines of a “Doolittle Raid”…

  • A year here a year there so what. You would think with all the computer assisted design programs “they” would have a design that would actually work. Since it is a fixed price contract I am sure the vendor will not put too many overtime hours into the fix. I wonder if there is penalty clause in the contract. We, the USN, took proven systems, cat and and arresting, and decided to go with some start wars type maybe it will work, or it will work systems. Another example is the F35. Gold platting maybe it will work, well it works on a computer simulation, we think.I understand the steam considerations with the nuke plant for thee cats, but the arresting system still uses wire. Oh yea we may save on the manning side, less sailors but at what cost. I am sure for all the cost over runs a load of sailors could be hired. The Navy, and all the services at times act like Beta software engineers, nothing is ever finished need to do more things. THere n
    motto should be “keep it simple stupid” use what has worked working and tweak it here and there. We have put all the eggs in one basket and look at what has happened, delays, delays, and more delays. Sorry for all the puns but if would be comic if it was not so pathetic.

    • Mark Sheehan

      I was in v2 div on Saratoga cats and gear I was in gear its not a manning issue they are trying to lesson the forces on the airframe of the plane for less repairs and longer life of the plane

  • Secundius

    Just like a Wargame, where Virtual comes into Conflict with REAL…

  • Secundius

    At least for the time being we can outfit her with the F/AV-35B’s and the MV-22C’s. Not mention the Helicopter assets…

    • El_Sid

      Starts to sound like one of the new British carriers…

      • Secundius

        @ El_Sid.

        On one of the other USNI News website, the author points out that Pumping-Out More Money to keep this Program Alive is a Acceptable Expenditure. If that’s the case, why was it necessary to Shave $180-Million USD. off the 9 other ship’s in the class, for a Less Advanced Radar System. That a $16.2-Billion USD. out of the program. Is their more things wrong with this class, that are not be addressed. Or, are they Syphoning off money for something else. “Robbing Peter, too Save Paul”…

        • El_Sid

          Think you’ll find that 9 x $180m = $1.62bn – but it’s not that anyway, the remaining carriers were always due to have the cheaper radar. Putting a Zumwalt radar on a carrier always looked like gold-plating, but it was a one-off thing due to the lack of any other suitable US radar. Carriers make great radar platforms – they have lots of power and height, but if you look at the Nimitzes then a “Less Advanced Radar System” is the norm. In fact their 48/49 radars were mostly salvaged from 1960s escort ships.

          Rescheduling the development of a new radar for capital ships is just one more sign that the USN is slowly understanding the concept of a budget and that means giving up some of its addiction to Gucci toys like a $500m radar on a ship that will always be escorted by multiple Aegis ships.

          • Secundius

            @ El_Cid.

            Curtis Conway, say’s Hi. Your right, my decimal point was in the wrong place, Thanks. The CVN-79, JFK through CVN-87 with AN/SPS-49(V)1 EADS radars. Instead of AN/SPY-3 radars. With all the problems the Gerald Fords are having, is going to a less capable system. To pick Problems, or being redirected somewhere else…

  • Sandy

    these computer assisted designs don’t work very well on smaller intricate things like miniature hydraulics, etc. You would think, though, that it would not have been a problem for gear as big as this.

    • Secundius

      @ Sandy.

      I don’t know about that, I would think any Corporation specializing in Hydraulic Parts Manufacturing would find it difficult. If not practically impossible without them. I would think Drafting Parts on a drafting table, would be labor intensive and an economical nightmare without them…

  • Secundius

    We could just reclassify her a LPD(K)-1 Gerald R. Ford class Uber Gator Freighter…

  • NavySubNuke

    On the bright side – hopefully when the Chinese break into the network and steal the designs they take the flawed one.

    • Secundius

      @ NavySubNuke.

      Hopefully the ChiCom’s are reading from Stored Memory and not in Real Time…

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  • old guy

    Does anyone know what’s “Advanced” about it? It looks like the same old system.

    • Secundius

      @ old guy.

      I really can’t find much information on the system itself. But, I suspect it works on the same principle of a Brake-Regeneration System found of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. As you apply force, the same force is being used against the applied force. It’s also possible that the Cables are shorter, too…

    • Mark Sheehan

      I worked in arresting gear V2 div it suppose to take about 70% of the stress off the plane during landing saves lot of ware and tear

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  • Leatherstocking

    Great – we can launch but can’t trap. Gonna be hard to embark the airwing. Maybe we can put them aboard with a crane like Doolittle’s B-25s.

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