USS Gerald Ford inspires France for a new next-gen aircraft carrier

PARIS, (BM) – During a visit to Lorient on March 29, Florence Parly, the Armed Forces Minister, kicked off the summary preliminary design work for the New Generation Aircraft Carrier [PA-NG], learned citing opex360. This phase follows a step called “detailed preliminary design,” then by the vessel’s construction, which will begin in 2025.

On this occasion, it inaugurated a “platform” where the General Directorate of Armaments [DGA], the Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Renewable Energies [CEA], and the manufacturers involved in this program, including Naval Group, Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Technicatome.

To determine the best possible profile of the PN-NG hull, engineers and technicians use digital simulation and 1/30 scale models, the shapes of which evaluate during tests carried out in a tank. and in the lake of Castillon [Alpes-de-Haute-Provence]. In addition to this work on the hydrodynamics and the propulsion of the future ship, it is a question of optimizing the systems that it will implement, knowing that it should have electromagnetic catapults [EMALS – Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System ] and Advanced Arresting Gear [AAG].

Hence, at the end of April, the visit of a French delegation aboard the new American aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford, which is currently continuing its post-delivery test and trials [PDT & T], incorporates such systems.

Thus, according to a press release from the US Navy, this French delegation, led by the general engineer of armaments Nicolas Hué and Vice-Admiral Éric Malbrunot, responsible for plans and programs at the National Navy staff, was able to “observe” the operation of the electromagnetic catapults as well as the advanced stop device. This will allow “France to refine the design” of its new generation aircraft carrier, underline in the text.

“This visit was particularly beneficial for the future of naval aviation” because it allowed “our French allies […] to gain the first-hand experience with our systems and to speak with our technicians”, Captain Paul Lanzilotta said. And for him, this can only be beneficial “as we work together in the decades to come. “

“The visit of the USS Ford allowed the DGA to see both the integration of EMALS and AAG in a new aircraft carrier design and to prepare for the integration of the next E-2D Advanced Hawkeye,” said the IGA Hue. He added, “Equally important; we have seen many innovations in the design of the USS Ford, which will be of interest to our PA-NG development process.”

US Navy said the French delegation was introduced to “23 new technologies”, some of which gave rise to some difficulties in their development. This is also the case of the electromagnetic catapults and the AAG system, which, supplied by General Atomics, represent 25% of the cost of the USS Gerald Ford [$ 13.5 billion].

As a reminder, the operation of electromagnetic catapults is reproducing on a linear induction motor. Thus, electronic currents flowing on either side of a catapult rail generate a magnetic field to set a mobile cart on which the aircraft fixed. Theoretically, such a device makes it possible to “catapult” an airplane [or a drone] carrying more fuel and ammunition while reducing the mechanical stresses on its airframe.

Compared to steam catapults, EMALS requires much less maintenance while offering a higher frequency of catapults.

However, the latest report from the Pentagon’s director of operational tests and evaluation [DOT & E, Director, Operational Test & Evaluation Office] was once again very critical of these electromagnetic catapults, implicating their reliability, considered insufficient.

“The poor or unknown reliability of the new technological systems essential for air operations, including EMALS and AAG, could hamper the ability of the USS Gerald Ford to generate [air] sorties”, summed up the DOT & E in last January.

In any case, the commander of Carrier Strike Group [CSG] 12, the carrier strike group of the USS Gerald Ford, said he was “convinced that the acquisition of EMALS and AAG by France as well as adopting a flight deck configuration similar to that of the Ford-class aircraft carriers will improve interoperability between the US Navy and the French Navy.

“France and the United States remain the only two countries to operate nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and this visit was crucial for us to maintain this high level of interoperability for future joint operations,” agreed the Minister. Vice-Admiral Malbrunot.


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