General Atomics Wins $1.2B Contract for EMALS, AAG on Future Carrier Doris Miller, French Carrier Study

June 7, 2023 6:26 PM
An artist’s conception of the electromagnetic launch systems (EMALS). General Atomics Photo

The builder of the electromagnetic catapults and advanced arresting gear used by the Navy’s Ford-class aircraft carrier won a $1.19 billion contract for the purchase of the systems aboard the future USS Doris Miller (CVN-81), the Pentagon said in a Wednesday contract announcement.

In addition to purchasing the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) for Miller, the modification awarded to General Atomics includes an effort for a “case study and developmental research in support of the potential future procurement of EMALS and AAG for the government of France.”

In 2019, the Navy awarded HII a $14.9 billion contract to cover the remaining construction and design costs for Miller and the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80). In total, the two ships will be built for an estimated $24 billion. Wednesday’s award is part of the government-furnished equipment for the carrier program.

The EMALS technology, similar to the same systems that drive monorails and launch high-speed roller coasters, was designed to minimize crewing and maintenance for the carrier over the older steam catapult systems. EMALS aboard Ford cut the number of sailors need to operate the from about a dozen to two.

An MH-60S Knighthawk, attached to the ‘Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9, transports cargo during a replenishment-at-sea on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN-78) flight deck, June 2, 2023. US Navy Photo

Likewise, the AAG replaced the hydraulic arresting system found on the Nimitz-class carriers with a system that needs fewer sailors and is easier to maintain.

The award to General Atomics comes as the lead ship of the class – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) – is on its first worldwide deployment with the EMALS and AAG systems.

The pair of systems have had developmental delays over the testing and rollout on Ford. While the promise for EMALS and AAG was to increase the sortie generation rate for the carrier over the older versions, earlier this year the crew of Ford was working to match the rates of the Nimitz-class carriers.

“We’ve gotten very good at coming through minor issues. We do not have hardly any catastrophic issues that take us down for extended periods of time,” then Ens. Justin Knighton, an aircraft launch and recovery equipment maintenance officer, told USNI News in October.

Additionally, the new French PANG nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will feature EMALS and AAG.

The estimated 70 to 75,000-ton French carrier plans to enter service in the late 2030s.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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