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13 May 2017, 12:46 | Katrina Lee
Pre-commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford
In another really weird aside in an interview, Donald Trump said he was ordering the Navy to continue using steam catapults to launch planes from aircraft carriers because the "digital" ones they're putting on a new carrier are so complex you'd "have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out".
Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and defense analyst with the Center for a New American Security, said Thursday that Trump's criticism "has merit", but that numerous issues that initially were raised about the the digital catapult already have been resolved.
The Navy didn't immediately respond to FP's request for comment or reaction, but is expected to address the commander in chief's remarks in a statement. Depending on the results, the Navy expects "to turn delivery around quickly after that", he added.
After an exchange about how the new system works, Trump concludes: "It sounded bad to me".
Presumably, "old-fashioned" steam-powered launch systems would be unaffected.
But, Trump appeared to confuse the technology used in the launch system. Not good. Doesn't have the power. "I said what system are you going to be - 'Sir, we're staying with digital.' I said, 'no you're not. The digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money, and it's no good'". "Experts say it's virtually impossible to sort out how to replace the existing EMALS system with the old steam-powered system, and that could cost billions of dollars", Gramer writes. What is digital? And it's very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. "You see that sucker going and steam's going all over the place, there's planes thrown in the air'". The $12.9 billion Ford is the most expensive carrier to date and began sea trials in April.
The comments, published Thursday by Time magazine, came during an interview Monday evening at the White House.
The EMALS technology, installed for the first time on the Ford, aims to improve efficiency and substantially reduce cost of maintenance, a vast improvement over the fund-draining, maintenance-intensive steam catapult technology, which is less compatible with modern gas turbine propulsion systems. I said, 'What system are you going to be?' - 'Sir, we're staying with digital.' I said, 'No, you're not.
Said Stackley, "He did go down to Newport News and visited the ship, was onboard the ship".
"And I said - and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers", the president continued.
160219-N-XU135-029 NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Feb. 19, 2016) - A sled moves along the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford in February 2016 during a test of that comprise part of the ship's Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Another GAO report in 2013 questioned the system's readiness, but the Navy pushed back, saying the design was stable and future testing would uncover any other deficiencies.
"Being able to reliability regulate the launch speed at which something goes off the boat, then not ruin that aircraft over time and not have excessive wear and tear is [done] better with an electric catapult", said John "JV" Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank.
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