March 4 (UPI) -- General Atomics was awarded a $11.7 million contract to supply spare parts for the troubled Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System aboard Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers.
The EMALS support order, which is based upon a previously issued basic ordering agreement, provides for 181 various line items for initial spares acquisition, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday.
Work on the new contract will be performed in Tupelo, Miss., and is expected to be completed in January 2022 with $5.8 million obligated to the company at the time of award and none of the funds set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
One month ago, General Atomics was awarded a $19.7 million contract for the manufacture, assembly, inspection, integration, test and delivery for the system.
In 2017, the company received a $532.6 million contract modification to manufacture the system for the Navy.
EMALS, which launches carrier-based aircraft using a catapult that employs a linear induction motor rather than the conventional steam piston, were developed for the Navy's Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. Besides the Ford, the John F. Kennedy and Enterprise are also scheduled to install and use EMALS.
Nimitz-class carriers have been supplied with steam systems, which cause more stress on their airframes, cost more to operate and require more maintenance. In addition, EMALS makes it easier to launch heavier and lighter aircraft back-to-back than a steam piston-driven system, and it reduces the carrier's requirement of fresh water, which reduces the need for energy-intensive desalination.
General Atomics began testing its EMALS and advanced arresting gear, or AAG, system, which provides for aircraft deceleration during aircraft carrier recovery operations, on the USS Ford at sea last year. In July, the Ford is set to leave Newport News Shipbuilding for more testing after the completion of a post-delivery maintenance availability.
The system, however, has had problems during its development.
As of September, Ford had conducted 747 launches using EMALS with 10 critical failures, according to DOT&E's latest report obtained by The Drive. Catapults must be able to launch an average of 4,166 aircraft before experiencing a serious fault.
Testing aboard the Ford was pushed back two years because early versions of the EMALS AAG system installed at test facilities did not meet required reliability levels and prompted an extensive redesign for follow-on versions.
In 763 attempted recoveries, the arresting gear suffered 10 operational mission failures.
The Navy hopes to have all of the technical information available for launch and recover every configuration of the F-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler from Ford by the end of this year, USNI News reported last month -- though as of Feb. 14, it lacked this information.
President Donald Trump has long been a proponent of staying with steam, at least partially because of the new system's developmental costs and issues, telling Time magazine that EMALS "costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it's no good."
"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, he said.