The United States will reinforce French aircraft carriers with a high-tech fighter jet launch system; cements ties after AKUS setback

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The United States has approved the sale of a sophisticated system to France after months of disenchantment between the two traditional partners. Their relations went through a difficult period due to the exclusion of France from the AUKUS (Australia-United Kingdom-United States) agreement, a decision seen as a diplomatic and military snub in Paris.

The Biden administration has approved the sale of an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) worth more than $ 1.32 billion for the future French aircraft carrier, according to the Cooperation Agency for the security and defense (DSCA). The deal will go through Foreign Military Sales (FMS), as Naval News reported.

“The State Department has made the decision to approve a possible foreign military sale to the French government of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arrest Equipment (AAG) and related equipment for a estimated cost of $ 1.321 billion, “he added. DSCA said in a press release Dec. 21.

The DSCA issued the required certification advising Congress of the possible sale, the statement said.

“The French government has requested the purchase of an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), two launcher configurations, an advanced arrest device (AAG) and three engine configurations”, a- he added.

The main contractors for the project will be General Atomics-Electromagnetic Systems Group in San Diego, Calif., And Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Va., According to the DSCA statement.

The electromagnetic aircraft launch system at Naval Air Systems Command, Lakehurst, launching a US Navy F / A-18E Super Hornet during a test December 18, 2010

The publication was also revealing of the American commitment to strengthen the French army as well as to ensure interoperability between their armed forces. He underlined how essential the security of France, a NATO ally, was to political stability and economic progress in Europe.

The press release stated that “interoperability between the United States and France will be maintained following the proposed agreement. The next generation aircraft carrier program in France will include EMALS and AAG. This equipment will easily be integrated into the French military forces.

The American submission to Congress also alludes to the value that France as an ally holds in the United States. She seems to have struck a balance between her commitment to Australia and her responsibility to France.

The statement further states that “to support the installation, commissioning, certification, aircraft compatibility testing, cockpit certification and sea trials, approximately 40 U.S. government officials and contractors will be assigned in France for 10 weeks per year during the calendar years 2033. -2038.

However, he also assured Congress and all Americans that the planned transaction will not negatively impact the United States’ defense readiness.

What is EMALS?

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) uses electromagnetic technology to launch aircraft from the decks of aircraft carriers and has a number of advantages over existing launch systems.

File image: Rafale Marine

Currently, most countries use steam catapult systems on their aircraft carriers. However, steam catapults have a number of drawbacks. Due to the fact that these are such massive systems, they require a lot of labor for management and maintenance.

They have reached a limit in terms of power generation and as a result they will not be able to handle future larger planes.

Because the launch of a steam catapult is not smooth, it has a serious influence on the life of the aircraft. The amount of steam required is determined by the weight of the aircraft, but once the launch has started, it is not possible to precisely adjust the amount of steam used.

USS Gerald R. Ford - Wikipedia
USS Gerald R. Ford (via Wikipedia)

In view of some of these restrictions, General Atomics developed EMALS for the newer aircraft carriers in the US Navy. The various limitations associated with the steam catapult are at the origin of the French desire to acquire the EMALS for its new futuristic aircraft carrier.

The EMALS developed by General Atomics has increased launch operational capability, flexible architecture to accommodate different platforms, capable of launching a wide range of aircraft weights. It is expected to reduce labor and life cycle costs, thermal signature, surface weight and installed volume.

The huge aircraft carrier built by France for which EMALS is being acquired will be larger than the existing one. The electromagnetic catapult system will be used for the launch of Rafale fighter jets and a maritime variant of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), already under development.

The success of the EMALS registered on the American aircraft carrier Ford makes it a very important and attractive purchase for the French Navy. It will allow France to reduce costs, reduce its workforce and make the new new generation transporter more efficient and versatile.

The haste of the United States to approve the purchase could be an effort to accelerate the normalization of relations between the two partners, each indispensable to each other.

Reconciliation by military means?

Previously, France announced in 2018 that it had entered into discussions with the United States regarding the purchase of EMALS for its future aircraft carriers. The construction program for these aircraft carriers has been named “New Generation Aircraft Carriers” (PANG).

In December 2020, President Macron announced that the transporter project was moving forward. General Nicolas Hué of the French Armament Supply Agency and French Navy Rear Admiral Eric Malbrunot, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Planning and Programs, accompanied the final autonomous steam event of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) post-delivery test and trial in April of this year.

French nuclear powered carrier
Artist’s impression of the future French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with three EMALS catapults. (Image of the naval group)

The EMALS and AAGs which are purchased for its own aircraft carrier are currently installed on the US aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

During the ship’s 18-month Post-Delivery Test and Test (PDT & T) period earlier this year, the systems met the US Navy’s goal of 8,000 successful aircraft launches and recoveries. This is all the more reason for the French navy to call for the purchase of these systems as it ventures to secure its own seas and define its own Indo-Pacific policy to counter China at sea.

Collaborating in building the capacity of the French navy could also be seen as a natural and obvious choice as France and the United States are interested in improving maritime safety, law enforcement and legal standards at sea. , insofar as they aim to establish large exclusive economic zones.

So a greater level of cooperation aboard aircraft carriers is a great place to start, according to Forbes.

After the AUKUS defense deal was announced between Australia, the UK and the US, US officials shuttled through Paris for most of October, to contain the damage. The failure of Australia’s $ 65 billion plan to purchase 12 Barracuda “Shortfin” class submarines from France has intensified French rage against the ill-declared strategic snub.

Even though this current sale has been in the works for two years and gained momentum even before the formation of AUKUS, it is still capable of strengthening military and diplomatic relations between the United States and France.



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