Jan. 24 (UPI) -- General Atomics was awarded a $19.7 million contract to supply spare parts for the troubled Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford.
The EMALS order, which is based upon a previously issued basic ordering agreement, provides for the manufacture, assembly, inspection, integration, test and delivery for the system, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a news release Wednesday.
Work is expected to be completed in January 2023. Thirty-seven percent of the project will be performed at General Atomics' Electromagnetics Systems Group headquarters in San Diego, as well as 18 percent performed in Boston.
Naval fiscal 2018 and 2019 shipbuilding and conversion funds will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
In 2017, General Atomics received a $532.6 million contract modification to manufacture the EMALS system for the Navy.
EMALS launches carrier-based aircraft using a catapult that empoys a linear induction motor rather than the conventional steam piston.
General Atomics developed the system for the Navy's Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, known as CVN-78. John F. Kennedy and Enterprise are also scheduled to install and use EMALS, according to General Atomics.
The electromagnetic system has several advantages over steam ones: aircraft are accelerated more smoothly, which puts less stress on their airframes, costs less to operate and requires less maintenance. In addition, it can launch heavier and lighter aircraft than a steam piston-driven system back-to-back with ease, and it reduces the carrier's requirement of fresh water, which reduces the need for energy-intensive desalination.
According to the Navy, EMALS can lift up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute -- instead of Nimitz-class carriers' 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.
Among other issues, software has hindered its development.
"I spent some time with the President and we talked about EMALS," Spencer said in a report by USNI News. "He said, should we go back to steam? I said, well Mr. President, really look at what we're looking at. EMALS, we got the bugs out. But what you really have to understand is the aperture of EMALS.
"It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can't do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space -- it's all to our advantage" with EMALS.
Trump has long been a proponent of staying with steam, at least partially because of its developmental costs and issues, telling Time magazine that EMALS "costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it's no good."
Last week, the USS Gerald R. Ford completed a major construction milestone with the acceptance of its first advanced weapons elevator for the system. Like the EMALS, the elevators' installation has been delayed by technical issues.
On Dec. 21, the AWE Upper Stage #1 was turned over to the ship after testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
All shipboard installation and testing activities of the 10 elevators are due to be completed before the end of Ford's post-shakedown availability, scheduled for July.
"To be able to finally push the buttons and watch it operate like it's designed to do was a great feeling," said Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford's ordnance handling officer. "Once these systems are proven, they are going to pay huge dividends for naval strike capability."