Home » Budget Industry » Reports: U.S. Offers EMALS for Indian Carrier Development Program

Reports: U.S. Offers EMALS for Indian Carrier Development Program

Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), marking the beginning of a June day of Fast Cruise. Ford is conducting a three-day Fast Cruise to familiarize the crew with the ship’s systems for an extended period of time on June 8, 2016. US Navy Photo

India could be the first export customer for the aircraft launching system that is key to the new Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, according to reports in the Indian press this week.

Citing sources in the Trump administration, the Press Trust of India reported this week that the U.S. has approved the Indian military use of General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for its carrier development program.

The timing of the technology transfer is set to occur ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s anticipated visit to India in the next several months.

The Indian Navy is developing its own indigenous aircraft carrier-II (IAC-II) program – the planned INS Vishal.

Vishal is expected to be a 65,000-ton carrier with catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR). The design would be more sophisticated than India’s current short-take off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) design on its Soviet-built Vikramaditya and the 40,000-ton domestically built Vikrant (IAC-I).

Naval Sea Systems Command has shared information on carrier development, and India has reached out to U.K. firm BAE Systems, DCNS in France, Lockheed Martin and Russia’s Rosoboronexport for more information on carrier design.

EMALS is key to the Ford-class and its new reactor. Without having to generate the steam needed for older catapults designs, the Navy was able to develop smaller and more effecient reactors.

The Indian Navy has expressed some desire to develop Vishal as a nuclear carrier.

  • DaSaint

    Once that technology is transferred, it’s gone. Poof!

    I guess the determination is that it is no longer novel and needs to be protected, much as the steam catapult became common. I hope they’ve thought this out thoroughly.

    • Meh. The PRC is already working on electromagnetic catapults of their own and no other hostile nations can afford to build carriers.

      • FelixA9

        “Working on” is not the same as succeeding. Had our industrial base not leaked worse than a screen door China wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are with regard to stealth for example.

        • Yeah, but giving the PRC slightly better catapults is a pretty small risk compared to the benefits of having several Indian carriers on our side.

    • Rob C.

      I hate to say, I agree. But i do. India isn’t the well tight crew of well train professionals whom won’t make money on the side and leak secrets to potential “buyers”,

      EMAL isn’t easy ting to manage. If anything General Atomics will likely improve the design concept as they sell more of them.

      Technically, some roller coaster use a light weight version of that thing to launch cars down the track. Knox Berry Farm had one in 90s.

    • USNVO

      A concern, but the most important thing is knowing how to build it. I interpreted the article to mean the Indians could buy EMALS systems (and probably AAG as well) from General Atomics, not build their own. So the real important stuff stays with the manufacturer.

      For example, China (and Russia for that matter) have had access to western commercial jet engines for decades and still haven’t been able to actually build their own. Shoot, the Chinese haven’t even figured out how to reverse engineer the crappy Russian military jet engines.

    • percynjpn

      Not likely.

    • leroy

      I assume you are worried about the Chinese getting the system. It’s software-driven. I’m pretty sure that they can set it up so any attempt to copy or intrude into the code would cause it to wipe itself. Totally erase the code.

      As for the electro-magnetics, how hard would it be for an advanced nation like China to master that? They probably already have some sort of train driven by a similar electro-mag drive on rails. Maglev of some sort. Similar tech.

      I see the rewards of giving this to India, developing close military-to-military relations, as far outweighing any risks. We need to get India on our side. They need a seat on the UN Security Council. They already work with Israel on a number of advanced defense systems, and certainly Israeli engineers could help them design their own EMALS if India asked. I see little risk here, but a lot of potential gain.

  • tteng

    ” General ATOMICs’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System ”

    Please, (frankly the launcher don’t concern me), can the US make sure it also provide the reactor plant, for safety/environment sake.

    • Centaurus

      I don’t think GA in Poway, CA makes those things here !

    • muzzleloader

      The USN has always been very miserly when it comes to sharing reactor technology, even with close allies such as the Brits. I would not expect that to change anytime soon. Unless I am misreading the article, the technology sharing is for EMALS only.

      • tteng

        It was a bit of jest on my part. Still..

        Our EMALS was conceived with a nuke heart. I seriously doubt there is an EMALS.jr that comes with a conventional plant. Maybe it’s theoretically possible, as in ‘engineering textbook’ possible.

        So, either we are going to stringing them along, or they themselves will as accustomed, or we get them the nuke heart, or they try to get/build a shipborne reactor pile themselves. It is the last option that scares me.

        • USNVO

          It makes absolutely no difference what the ELECTRICAL plants prime movers are, whether they are Gas Turbine, Diesel, or Steam (that is all a nuclear plant is, and not an especially efficient one either) or some combination. What do you think they have hooked up to the one at Lakehurst? As long as you size your generators appropriately, you are fine. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter what you power them with. For that matter, there are actually several reasons why gas turbine generators would be superior for this application than steam generators. .

          • tteng

            Precedence does matter. Nobody has built a conventional powered carrier with an EMAL. India is not even that foolishly brave.

          • USNVO

            Precedence of one ship? That’s funny. No, it makes no difference where the power comes from. The facility at Lakehurst doesn’t use power from a nuclear plant and yet it works perfectly. The British were going to use gas turbine power for EMALS if they changed the design on the PoW to CTOL. The US Navy just completed a study which included conventionally powered carriers with EMALS. Since Gas Turbine Generators respond much quicker than steam generators to load changes, they are actually a better match for the electrical loads from EMALS. Electricity doesn’t care how it is generated as long as the source can provide the correct number of amperes required by the load.

          • tteng

            My question to you: if India asks the US to build India a non-nuke carrier with EMALs, would there be concerns (non-technical and other than IP leak?)

          • El_Sid

            Unlikely – India is pretty keen on indigenous production, and given that a 65k carrier with EMALS sounds like the CATOBAR variant of HMS Queen Elizabeth, one would imagine that a BAE design is probably first preference. The US has been quite good at insulting and irritating India over the years, hence India not buying that much US kit, although there have been attempts to mend a few bridges lately (which has led to eg the P-8 deal)

  • Centaurus

    Maybe to the Paki’s ?

    • India is am enemy of the (racist word) Paki’s.

      • Centaurus

        well, I’m just an old cracker from the 20th century

        • Centaurus

          Lets say wakypaki’s ?


    “EMALS is key to the Ford-class and its new reactor. Without having to generate the steam needed for older catapults designs, the Navy was able to develop smaller and more effecient reactors.”

    Besides efficient being misspelled, this is laughably wrong. The Navy developed a more compact reactor because advances in reactor design and control systems have happened since the NIMITZ’s reactors were designed way back in the 1960s. It has nothing to do with EMALS. For that matter, the new reactor puts out about the same amount of thermal energy (or steam if you prefer) as before, it is just that the steam is not piped throughout the ship, most notably to the catapults but also to numerous other places, but instead is used to generate electricity in the engineering spaces. Shoot, 80pct or so of the reactors output goes to powering the ships four screws and that hasn’t changed.

    EMALS (well actually the new electrical distribution system and all electric auxiliaries) is key to the FORD class but not because it makes the reactor smaller, but because it provides for drastic reduction in manning, more efficient space utilization in the ship because there are no steam lines running to the catapults (or anywhere else outside the main spaces), and a dramatic reduction in maintenance because steam catapults (and other auxiliaries) require massive amounts of maintenance compared to the electrical systems that replace them.

    • El_Sid

      If anything, EMALS makes it easier to have non-nuclear carriers, which need dedicated donkey boilers just to generate steam otherwise. Shame the timing was just all wrong for QNLZ, the UK needed a carrier design to be finalised before EMALS was proven.

    • Duane

      Good point,USNVO.

      The twin A1B reactor plants on the Ford class actually produce significantly more thermal power than the twin A4W plants on the Nimitz class, not less. About 25% more by some reports, though the exact thermal power outputs of naval reactors are classified data.

      Quite a few civilians seem to equate smaller operating crew with smaller reactor. The A1B plant needs a smaller operating crew because it is much more automated than the old Nimitz power plants that were designed back in the 60s when Rickover was still running NR. Rickover famously hated automation and decreed that he would minimize automation and rely on rigidly enforced operating instructions and crew training. But Rickover has been dead for a long time, bosses change, technology changes, and so it goes.

      The difference is that the excess thermal, or “steam” power is used to triple the amount of electrical power output of the power plants. Not just to power EMALs and AAG, but also to power a slew of new EM weapons that are slated to go aboard the Ford class that can never be added to the Nimitz class. Railguns and directed energy (laser) weapons, to be specific. The intent is to make the Ford class carriers much less dependant upon large Carrier Strike Groups for protection from aerial attack by both cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. The Navy has already installed two, 21-cell SeaRam anti-missile systems on the Ford, something that none of the Nimitz class carriers have yet, though they probably will eventually be so armed.

      And yes, the maintenance cost on electrical systems is always much less than for mechanical systems.

  • TDog

    Pretty sure this is a premature announcement. Standard operating procedure for India is to announce a deal has been reached, then negotiate it, and then cancel it over charges of corruption.

    • MzUnGu

      That’s pretty much what you get from shopping in India on the street level too. 😀 U did forget to mention of the extracting bribes at each of those steps and then repeat the procurment process again, and again to extract more.. LOL

  • Ed L

    We need India to take command of there region and help America against China. The Peoples Empire of China wants everything from Africa to Hawaii under there rule. Russia knows that but the Russians don’t have a trusting nature. India has a well rounded military industry, small arms AFV’s Aircraft, ships and has been consistently growing since there Independence. The India Naval Officer Corp is equal too and maybe in some cases better than the US Navy Officer Corp. Plus a very professional military equal in quality to our own.

  • Jon

    Do we hate India that much?

    • Mk-Ultra


  • Jav

    Coming from the fact that India had just declared that they wanted out of the T-50 project with Russia I am not holding my breath on this one.
    Doing business with India nowadays is the equivalent of talking to an unreliable narrator. They change their stances every so often, they put unacceptable demands and most of all they want it fast and they want it cheap and they want 0 of the responsibilities. Just like how the Rafale deal went down the crapper when France refuses to guarantee any planes built in India.