EMALS and AAG, designed and built by General Atomics, are intended for the French Navy's "PANG" next generation aircraft carrier program.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency:
The Government of France has requested to buy one (1) Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), 2 launcher configuration; and one (1) Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), 3 engine configuration. Also included are land-based testing and test spares; shipboard install; testing and certification support; shipboard spares; peculiar support equipment; government furnished equipment; multi-purpose reconfigurable training system; operator and maintainer training; integrated electronic technical manuals; drawings and interface control documents; technical assistance; contractor engineering technical services; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated total cost is $1.321 billion.
The proposed sale will result in continuation of interoperability between the United States and France. EMALS and AAG will be incorporated in France’s next-generation aircraft carrier program. France will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
The prime contractors will be General Atomics-Electromagnetic Systems Group, San Diego, CA; and Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News, VA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in conjunction with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately (40) U.S. Government and contractor representatives to France for 10 weeks per year in calendar years 2033-2038, to support shipboard system installation, commissioning, certification, aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification and sea trials.
The EMALS and AAG are currently fitted on the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Earlier this year, the systems achieved the U.S. Navy’s target of 8,000 successful aircraft launches and recoveries during the ship’s 18-month Post Delivery Test & Trial (PDT&T) period. General Atomics is currently delivering the systems for follow on ships USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79) and USS Enterprise (CVN 80).
About the $1.321 billion “estimated” price tag:
DSCA notifications usually quote the “maximum prce” and final contracts are often signed with substantially lower amounts.
In this case the notification is not limited to the supply of catapults and other associated equipment, but covers the whole spectrum of the program: the equipment, but also their integration, the tests (including land based test of French Navy aircraft at Lakehurst), the certification, spare parts, technical assistance… In other words, a “full service turnkey solution”.
Rafale M tests at Lakehurst in 2022
According to information obtained by Naval News, a French Navy Rafale M is set to conduct land-based testing and integration with the EMALS and AAG at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, New Jersey, at the end of 2020.
NAWCAD Lakehurst provides the unique facilities and subject matter expertise required to support testing of the next generation arresting gear. Lakehurst is home to the Jet Car Track Site (JCTS) and the Runway Arrested Landing Site (RALS), both of which enable in-depth system testing to ensure AAG meets fleet requirements. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home to two single-wire, ship-representative AAG systems. One of these systems is located at the Lakehurst JCTS test facility and is utilized for arrestment testing with dead-loads that simulate fleet aircraft; while the other AAG single-wire system is located at the Lakehurst RALS test facility, where integration testing with manned aircraft is conducted. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is also home to a land-based, ship-representative EMALS test site. This site allows for continued system testing and personnel training.
For the record, the Rafale M prototype (known as M01) was tested by Dassault Aviation, DGA and the French Navy with the U.S. made C-13 catapults during several campaigns at Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst and Patuxent River, Maryland. The four campaigns took place between the Summer of 1992 and the Fall of 1995.
In addition, one of our sources explained that the French Navy could request the U.S. Navy the possibility to use an EMALS-equipped aircraft carrier to train and qualify French pilots during the next refueling and overhaul period of Charles de Gaulle, set for 2028. The U.S. Navy should have three operational Ford-class carriers by then.
About France’s future aircraft carrier PANG
French President Emmanuel Macron officially green lighted the construction of a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as part of the PANG program one year ago (8 December 2020). The future flagship of the Marine Nationale is intended to replace the existing “Charles de Gaulle” around 2038.
The PANG (Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation or new generation aircraft carrier) will be much larger compared to the in-service Charles de Gaulle:
It will have a length of 300 meters, a width of 80 meters with a displacement of 75,000 tons.
First steel cut is set for 2025, while sea trials are set to begin in 2036 and commissioning with the French Navy in 2038, which matches with the expected decommissioning of the Charles de Gaulle.
The initial artist impressions released by Naval Group confirm some of the technical details which we have been reporting since July:
- Nuclear powered (CVN) with two K22 reactors (2 x 220 MW thermal)
- Length between 285 and 295 meters
- Full load displacement around 70,000 – 75,000 tonnes
- Maximum speed: 26 to 27 knots (similar to Charles de Gaulle)
- Propulsive power would be around 80 MW delivered to three or four shaft lines
- Total power around 110 MW, including the electrical plant
- Future air wing: 32 Next Generation Fighters with 2 to 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and a yet to be determined number of remote carriers/UCAVs
- Two side elevators with 40 tonnes lifting capacity
- Three 90-meter electromagnetic catapults (EMALS) by General Atomics*
- Flight deck: 16,000 m²
- Aircraft hangar: 5,000 m²
- Crew: 900 and 1080 sailors (not including the air element of 550 to 620 sailors) with higher comfort compared to Charles de Gaulle.
- Thales SeaFire radar
- PAAMS with MBDA ASTER surface to air missiles for self defense
*While some of the previously released PANG artist impressions showed a three EMALS configuration, it seems like the final configuration of the French aircraft carrier will feature only two catapults (as mentioned in the DSCA notice issued today: ” one (1) Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), 2 launcher configuration “)