President Trump is continuing to question a new military system for launching aircraft at sea, according to The Washington Post. It's the technology that the Navy has put at the very center of its future aircraft carrier fleet.
In a call to service members on Thursday marking the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump put the commander of the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier deployed in the Pacific, on the spot by asking what he thought of using electromagnetics rather than the traditional steam system to catapult aircraft off carrier decks and land them safely back on board.
“Steam is very reliable, and the electromagnetic — I mean, unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly,” Trump said. “What would you do?”
Behind the question was Trump's continuing skepticism over the cost and technology behind General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is installed on the Navy’s newest carrier and slated to be used on other new ships. The debut of that system, the culmination of years of testing and development, has been plagued by delays and technical problems.
Capt. Pat Hannifin, articulating the Navy’s view, responded by telling Trump that EMALS would lessen the burden that steam-powered systems exact on carriers and was within sailors’ power to operate successfully.
“You sort of have to be Albert Einstein to run the nuclear power plants that we have here as well, but we’re doing that very well,” Hannifin said.
In the past, problems emerged when EMALS was tested for launching aircraft with wing-mounted fuel tanks, the Post reported. The Pentagon also has admitted that critical failures occurred at a high rate during EMALS testing in 2017.
More recent testing on land has been successful, and General Atomics says it expects EMALS and its associated landing system will help ensure the Ford is ready for fleet operations in 2019.
A recent Congressional Research Service report, however, said that EMALS had met reliability requirements only after the Navy lowered its target for the system. “This lower target will also prevent the ship from meeting the program’s aircraft launch and recovery requirement,” the report said.
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