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.