Thursday, March 4, 2021

U.S. Navy to award contract for new electromagnetic aircraft catapult

General Atomics, a defense contractor that manufactures electromagnetic aircraft launch and recovery systems, will receive a contract for the procurement of supplies and services in support of new digital catapult systems of the Ford Class of Carriers.  

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced in a Jan. 14 notice posted to the government’s main contracting website that its intention to issue a sole source Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) with General Atomics (GA) for the procurement of supplies and services in support of Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) systems designed to replace steam catapults and propel fighter jets and other aircraft off the deck of a new aircraft carrier.

Notice gives further details that as the sole designer, developer and manufacturer of EMALS and AAG, GA is the only source with the requisite knowledge, experience, and technical expertise to provide the required supplies and services. As a result, only GA has the technical data, unique engineering support experience and detailed knowledge of the EMALS and AAG systems to meet the Department of the Navy’s requirements.

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GA says the EMALS and AAG can launch and recover the current air wing and any future aircraft, to provide greater flexibility than the legacy systems aboard Nimitz-class carriers.

The mission and function of EMALS remains the same as the traditional steam catapult; however, it employs entirely different technologies. It delivers necessary higher-launch energy capacity, improvements in system maintenance, increased reliability and efficiency, and more accurate end-speed control and smooth acceleration. EMALS expands the operational capability of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class carriers to include all current and future planned carrier aircraft, from lightweight unmanned aircraft to heavy strike fighters.

The software-controlled AAG is a modular, integrated system that consists of energy absorbers, power conditioning equipment and digital controls, with architecture that provides built-in test and diagnostics, resulting in lower maintenance and manpower requirements. AAG is designed to provide higher reliability and safety margins, as well as to allow for the arrestment of a greater range of aircraft and reduce the fatigue impact load to the aircraft.

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Colton Jones
Colton Jones is technology editor for Defenсe Blog. He has written about emerging technology in military magazines and elsewhere.

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