AP Photo/Evan Vucci
- President Donald Trump criticized the Navy’s plans to install new electromagnetic aircraft launch systems on its new Ford-class supercarriers while talking to US troops at a Memorial Day event in Japan.
- Trump has repeatedly attacked this system, arguing that steam catapults like those on Nimitz-class carriers are better than the more expensive electromagnetic launchers.
- Trump told the troops on Tuesday that he was going to issue an order requiring future supercarriers to use steam.
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President Donald Trump suddenly and inexplicably returned to a persistent obsession — the aircraft launch systems on the new Ford-class supercarriers — while talking with US troops stationed in Japan on Tuesday.
At one point, Trump told the troops that future carriers will return to using steam to launch aircraft.
The US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers have used steam launchers for decades to catapult aircraft off the flight deck, but the service is investing heavily in an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for the newer Ford-class supercarriers.
Development setbacks have driven up costs, delayed deliveries, and repeatedly drawn the president’s ire.
During Tuesday’s talk, Trump polled US 7th Fleet troops aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, asking the crowd of sailors and Marines which was better, steam or electromagnetic catapults.
The troops overwhelmingly supported the use of steam; however, there were some who cheered for the newer system.
Trump — a staunch proponent of traditional steam catapults that are less complex than the alternatives, which he believes a person must be "Albert Einstein" to fully understand and operate — quipped that service members who supported the use of electromagnetic catapults were working for the enemy.
As he has done many times throughout his presidency, Trump championed the use of steam catapults to launch aircraft from the Navy’s new carriers.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni
"Steam’s only worked for about 65 years perfectly," the president explained. "They have a $900 million cost overrun on this crazy electric catapult. I said, ‘What was wrong with steam?’"
"We want to go with steam," he further remarked. "They are always coming up with new ideas … They want to show next, next, next. And we all want innovation, but it’s too much. There’s never been anything like the steam catapult."
He argued that the "delicate" electromagnetic catapults are more expensive, less likely to hold up in battle and no more efficient than the steam catapults.
"I think I’m going to put an order — when we build a new aircraft carrier, we’re going to use steam," he said, suggesting a radical overhaul to a key Navy research and development project.
A return to steam would require a significant redesign of the new Ford-class carriers should the president decide to follow through on his statements in Japan.
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