France gets FMS Approval for EMALS and AAG

The State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) to the Government of France. Both systems are made by General Atomics and are destined for the Marine Nationale’s next-generation aircraft carrier: PANG.

According to a press release, the French government has requested to purchase:

“one (1) Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), 2 launcher configurations; 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; 1multi-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.”

Artist’s render of the Porte-avions de nouvelle génération (Rama)

Although the press release states that the EMALS configuration will have two launchers, the next-generation aircraft carrier has been depicted by artists with three launchers instead of the two approved here. This might be due to a change in the final design or else an extra launcher might be negotiated or added with the finalization of the agreement.

The GA-EMS Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System is an aircraft catapult system developed for the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class carriers, the system is far more advanced than the older steam-powered catapult system. Overall the system has a lower part count and reduces manpower associated with it as compared to the older system. EMALS is capable of launching aircraft much heavier than the prior steam catapult system, allowing for flexibility on the carrier deck when launching heavily loaded aircraft and having margins to launch future aircraft. The system is also capable of lessening the stresses on the airframes by having a very elegant acceleration profile when compared to steam catapult systems.

The new AAG was designed to replace the current MK-7 Shipboard Arresting Gear System. AAG allows the recovery of both heavier and faster aircraft, it also reduces life cycle costs by having lower operational and maintenance costs.

An F-A-18E Super Hornet is launched during a test of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)(U.S. Navy)

EMALS and AAG recently met the goal of 8,000 launch and recoveries aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford amidst its 18-month Post Delivery Test & Trial (PDT&T) period. Although both systems have been plagued by developmental issues due to their complexity, they continue to be improved and tested so the issues can be ironed out. Both systems will make their first operational debut during Ford’s deployment sometime next year.