U.S. Approves FMS of EMALS and AAG to French Navy’s Next-gen Aircraft Carrier Program

Rafale M01 during tests at Lakehurst in the 1990ies. Dassault Aviation picture.

The United States’ State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to France of Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and related equipment for an estimated cost of $1.321 billion.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency:

The Government of France has requested to buy one (1) Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), 2 launcher configuration; 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; multi-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.

The EMALS and AAG are currently fitted on the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Earlier this year, the systems achieved the U.S. Navy’s target of 8,000 successful aircraft launches and recoveries during the ship’s 18-month Post Delivery Test & Trial (PDT&T) period. General Atomics is currently delivering the systems for follow on ships USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79) and USS Enterprise (CVN 80).

Artist impression of France’s future aircraft carrier. Note the SCAF fighters, the EMALS catapults and the SeaFire radar. Naval Group image.

The Rafale M prototype (known as M01) was tested by Dassault Aviation, DGA and the French Navy with the U.S. made C-13 catapults during several campaigns at Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst and Patuxent River, Maryland. The four campaigns took place between the Summer of 1992 and the Fall of 1995.

In addition, one of our sources explained that the French Navy could request the U.S. Navy the possibility to use an EMALS-equipped aircraft carrier to train and qualify French pilots during the next refueling and overhaul period of Charles de Gaulle, set for 2028. The U.S. Navy should have three operational Ford-class carriers by then.

French President Emmanuel Macron officially green lighted the construction of a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as part of the PANG program one year ago (8 December 2020). The future flagship of the Marine Nationale is intended to replace the existing “Charles de Gaulle” around 2038.

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