Troubled, wonky: The most expensive U.S. aircraft carrier ever built looks to shed these labels for good in 2020

Hugh Lessig, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) on

Published in Business News

The catapults that shoot aircraft off the flight deck are popularly known as EMALS. They run on electromagnetic power similar to that of a roller-coaster, much different from steam-driven catapults on Nimitz Class ships. The EMALS system experienced growing pains early in the Ford Class program. It grabbed headlines again in 2017 when President Trump said it was too complex -- "you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out," he said at one point -- but the Navy stuck with it and now, after hundreds of tests, now expresses confidence in EMALS.

-- Advanced Arresting Gear

The AAG catches aircraft that land on the flight deck. It employs a water twister/paddlewheel system. Early on, it had so many problems that Navy leaders considered abandoning it.

It was redesigned in 2013, and a new version was tested. In November 2014, the Government Accountability Office noted failures in land-based testing. In March 2015, a Naval Sea Systems Command officer said AAG was about two years behind schedule.

In July 2016, the Defense Department inspector general said the program had recorded a 332% cost increase through research, development, testing and evaluation. It represented an overrun of $571.5 million from 2005 numbers.


Further land-based testing of AAG increased confidence in the system, and the Navy has since endorsed it.

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