The US State Department has tentatively approved the sale of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) to France at an estimated $1.3 billion.
The potential foreign military sale includes Advanced Arresting Gear and related equipment for France’s next-generation aircraft carrier, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency stated.
“Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately 40 US government and contractor representatives to France for 10 weeks per year in calendar years 2033-2038, to support shipboard system installation, commissioning, certification, aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification, and sea trials,” the agency added.
Advantages Over Steam Catapult
France and the US have been in talks over the General Atomics system acquisition since 2018.
The system has several advantages over the traditional steam catapult, such as launching a greater variety of aircraft, from heavy fighter jets to lighter unmanned aircraft, thanks to its greater launch control.
The EMALS is lighter than a steam catapult, occupies less space, and requires 25 percent less staffing and maintenance. Moreover, it requires less freshwater than a steam catapult, reducing the demand for energy-intensive desalination.
The construction of France’s next carrier, Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération, is expected to begin in 2025. It will enter service in 2038, the year the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will be retired. The 75,000-ton nuclear-powered carrier will have a fleet of Rafale M fighters and the sixth generation Future Combat Air System. It will have the capacity to launch 60 sorties a day thanks to the three EMALS expected to deploy.