Home » Aviation » NAVSEA: Ford Carrier Advanced Arresting Gear Testing Shows Promise

NAVSEA: Ford Carrier Advanced Arresting Gear Testing Shows Promise

Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) completes a first-of-its-kind recovery of an Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23-assigned F/A-18E Super Hornet at the Runway Arrested Landing Site in Lakehurst, N.J., Oct. 13, 2016. US Navy Photo

Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) completes a first-of-its-kind recovery of an Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23-assigned F/A-18E Super Hornet at the Runway Arrested Landing Site in Lakehurst, N.J., Oct. 13, 2016. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The troubled General Atomics Advanced Arresting Gear program is doing well in its delayed testing program on land and on carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the head of Naval Sea Systems Command told reporters on Wednesday.

Last month, Naval Air Systems Command successfully landed an F/A-18E Super Hornet at its land-based test facility in Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in Lakehurst, N.J. 12 times in a day with no problems in a little-publicized test and shipboard testing of the AAG system on Ford is doing well, said Vice Adm. Tom Moore.

“We have got a shipboard unit installed at the runway assisted landing site, not just at the jet car test site, and we’re actually putting real aircraft on it — which is the point we needed to get to,” he said.
“What I’m seeing today on AAG and what I’ve seen consistently is we will have an aircraft recovery bulletin for Super Hornet by February. I just came from a detailed brief on that we’re on track to do that.”

AAG, one of several new technological firsts on Ford, has suffered several design and reliability problems over the last several years drawing scrutiny of the Senate Armed Services Committee and several sources in the Navy told USNI News in May the service may consider using a modified version of the older Mk7 MOD 3 hydraulic arresting system in follow-on Ford carriers like John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) and Enterprise (CVN-80).

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

In 2015, the service announced a key component of the AAG, the water twister — a complex paddlewheel designed to absorb 70 percent of the force of a landing — has been under engineered and the process of finding the fix cost the Navy two years in testing delays. However, Moore said that the recent positive signs at Lakehurst and on Ford point that system will be ready when the ship delivers to the service — likely sometime next year.

“When that ship delivers we’ll be ready to land aircraft on AAG. I think 78 is doing much better and I think we’ll have a fully functional system,” Moore said.
“I don’t want to presuppose any decision but I believe if the system functions the way it does on 78 — and given where we are on CVN 79 and the construction of the ship — that it’s a very strong and viable path forward for us.”

While the system is showing more success in the recent testing than it has in years, there is ongoing scrutiny of the AAG program from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Congress that could still have an effect on the progress of the program regardless of testing success.

A look into the AAG is one of five components of a review of the Ford carrier program by the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) Frank Kendall.

Tug boats maneuver Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) into the James River during the ship's Turn Ship evolution on June 11, 2016. US Navy photo.

Tug boats maneuver Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) into the James River during the ship’s Turn Ship evolution on June 11, 2016. US Navy photo.

“What we have to determine now is whether it is best to ‘stay the course’ or adjust our plans, particularly for future ships of the class,” Kendall wrote in an August memo to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus obtained by USNI News.
“The first step in that process has to be a completely objective and technically deep review of the current situation.”

In addition, the AAG system could also be the subject of a Nunn-McCurdy breach if the version of the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act for the 2017 budget — currently in conference — passes due to changes according to language in the new legislation.

ANunn-McCurdy breach — a federal law that requires the Defense Department recertify a program after costs have increased 25 percent per unit above the original estimate — would force the Defense Department and the Navy to take a hard look at the program and evaluate its need in the service.

In report the Senate Armed Services Committee released with its proposed Fiscal Year 2017 defense authorization bill, the SASC laid out a pattern of cost increases from about a $476 million in costs for research development and acquisition in 2009 for four systems to a 2016 cost estimate of $1.4 billion – about a 130 percent increase when adjusted for inflation.

  • Curtis Conway

    “What we have to determine now is whether it is best to ‘stay the course’ or adjust our plans, particularly for future ships of the class,” . . . STAY THE COURSE!

  • Hugh

    Considering that the current hydraulic arrestors and steam catapults have been around since the 1950s……..

    • publius_maximus_III

      One must really wonder about the need for reinventing such tried-and-true devices as:
      (1) the wheel
      (2) the rudder
      (3) the arresting gear on a aircraft carrier

      • old guy

        Plaudits for your (un)common sense.

    • Marauder 2048

      And what were the operating weights, structural design lifetimes and bringback requirements for Naval Aviation in the 50’s?

      • Refguy

        The current and projected aircraft are no heavier, and generally lighter, than the Whale and the Vigi.

        • Marauder 2048

          The F-35C has a greater max takeoff weight than the Vigi and a greater bringback requirement than the Whale. And we haven’t even delved into the design lifetimes.

          • Refguy

            Hard to believe a small (compared to Vigi and Whale), low aspect ratio wing with too much taper and a supersonic airfoil can carry that much weight. (Yes, I do know the C has a bigger wing than the A & B, but it’s still small and not optimized for high lift). In any event, Whales and Vigis operated from Midways with Mk 7 Mod 2 arresting gear, so the Mod 3 should be good enough for F-35, which comes back to the original thread of why is the AAG necessary (aside from avoiding the expense retrofitting it to a ship that’s already undergoing trials).

          • Marauder 2048

            It’s not hard to believe given that the wing isn’t the only contributor to lift at cruise.

            For recovery, the Vigi’s rarely, if ever, recovered at a weight greater than 42,000 lbs; 49,000 lbs for the Whale.

            With the bringback requirements, the F-35C will regularly exceed both of those weights which in turn puts the Mod 3 at risk in terms of MTBF. And we have no idea what the recovery requirements for MQ-25 will be.

          • Refguy

            The comments on the wing were directed at launch and recovery, not cruise. How do trap weights compare to the Prowler and the Turkey?

          • Marauder 2048

            Not sure I agree with your premise: the C wing is optimized for high lift at low speed.

            Do you really want me to dig out the recovery bulletins? What would that prove?

          • Refguy

            Bigger, but hardly optimized; same trailing- and leading-edge sweeps and airfoil, too much taper. I don’t have access to recovery bulletins since I retired; they might support the argument that the Mk7 Mod3 is adequate. It pretty much has to be adequate since the C will have to operate from some of the current fleet, which is NOT going to be retrofitted with the AAG.

          • Sons of Liberty

            That’s the next shoe to drop in the F35 program. When they announce it’s no capable on any ship expect those with AAG. Only reason we are not delaying AAG on any ship until its completed RDT&E.

  • b2

    The miserable state of our industrial base for defense is telling. After years of down-sizing, consolidation and loss of young talent to “computer”/EE/gaming/entertainment stuff” something like this issue is inevitable. We continue to miss Mars.

    One has to question the due diligence given the basic mechanical engineering that went into it along with the Navy’s (IE- officers/GS engineers assigned) culpability for not keeping to essentials however with all the process training and social training and change for change sake they have to endure, I can understand why we are failing. Everything is done by committee or as they glorify it, “TEAM” . As such there is no accountability and no one ever fails. That could hurt someone’s self esteem you know. What is always missed is we called it in the olden days “Attention to Detail” ….

    Don’t listen to us who have been around, we’re OBE, just keep embracing change for the sake of it.

    • B.J. Blazkowicz

      Just like no child left behind, we are falling behind the rest of the world. Concurrency is the biggest mistake to happen to our military.

  • cynic_rising

    Just have to wonder…

    Is it the truth or a distraction?

    No aid or comfort to the enemy – NO WAY!

  • Secundius

    A “Promise”? What that Equal To?? Another TWO Years in the Funding of KAPUTT…

  • Marjus Plaku

    What about the magnetic catapult? that would have been very very useful but again we cannot make it work well enough.

    • Secundius

      I’m surprised that the US Navy hasn’t called in BAe, for their “Two Cents Worth”. Considering They To Make “Railguns”…

  • John B. Morgen

    I’m at the point now that the Navy should scrap the aircraft carrier the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), for all these nonsense delays. We need aircraft carriers at sea, and this CVN is becoming more of a “White Elephant.” For all the time, and funding spent on this one CVN, we could have built and deployed between two or three more Nimitz class CVNs. The Obama Administration must be nuts!

    • Secundius

      Actually Don’t blame Obama, but US Congress. There hasn’t been a Defense Budget during the ENTIRE Obama Presidency. ALL Current Defense Appropriations are working on the Appropriations made in 2008 by President George W. Bush, Jr…

      • John B. Morgen

        I wonder how the members of Congress balance their check books, if they couldn’t pass a defense budget during President Obama’s Administration.

        • Secundius

          Considering that Obama used a Executive Order to Transfer Funds from an Ford class Aircraft Carrier. To Refit FOUR Nimitz class Aircraft Carriers in Norfolk during the 2013 Sequester. And Get them Back to Sea, plus Build THREE Flight III Arleigh Burke’s with the Spare Funds. After the Sequester in June 2017, Those SAME Four Nimitz class Aircraft Carriers would STILL be Sitting at Norfolk AFTER the Sequester waiting to be Refitted. Obama Submitted a Defense Budget for 2017 of ~250-pages. US Congress, Shorted the Defense Budget by 194-pages. ONLY 56-pages were submitted for Review, which also includes VA Benefits, Sign-Up Bonuses and Other Benefit for OUR Serving Personnel. One of my Service Buddies after Hearing About it, Wanted to Give Senator John McCain an Early Retirement, the EASY Way…

          • John B. Morgen

            Your friend might get his wish because Senator McCain is running a very tight race against a strong Democrat.

          • Secundius

            He was Thinking in Something a Bit Smaller, in the Way of a .30-06 (7.62×63.3mmR/Springfield)…

        • Secundius

          That Reminds Me but Tell “Nicky” that the British got the Go-Ahead to Lay the Keels of EIGHT Type 26 class Frigates in the Summer of 2017 through to 2035. The announcement was made 4 November 2016. Maybe some of those will be for US…

          • John B. Morgen

            The Royal Navy could loan some of the Type 26 class frigates to the United States Navy as part of a NATO exchange program.

          • Secundius

            Or Buy them “Bareboat” in the UK and Fit Them Out Here in the USA. The “Jones” Act, Allows for Bareboat Purchases…

          • John B. Morgen

            “Bareboat” option would allowed the Navy to refit the frigates with our weapon systems, etc. The Jones Act should be repeal..

          • Secundius

            Senator John McCain, has been Trying a “One Man Crusade” from 1990. With the SAME Results, NOTHING…

      • Sons of Liberty

        Obama is the father of sequester so good luck tryinto rewrite history of the budget situation.

        • Secundius

          Wrong Again, Ronald Reagan WAS…

  • brian

    The age of the super carrier is over.The trade off between cost and deterrence is no longer viable. Naval expenditures are best suited to ships with a superior return on investment like guided missile platforms.We continue to build carriers because we can and we always have. Not a real foundation for present or future naval doctrine.