April 16, 2009 / 2:06 AM / 10 years ago

US Navy opts to continue carrier launch system

WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - After a review triggered by cost overruns and technology concerns, the U.S. Navy on Wednesday said it has decided to proceed with a new aircraft-launching system for its new aircraft carrier.

Privately held General Atomics, based in San Diego, has been working on the new electromagnetic aircraft launching system (EMALS) that is aimed at allowing the Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford carrier to launch more jets from the flight deck.

The Navy decided to proceed with the new system despite concerns over its development because it “promises to lower overall lifecycle costs, require less maintenance than steam catapults and generate less physical stress on carrier-based aircraft,” said spokesman Lieutenant Commander Victor Chen.

Chen said the decision was based on a major review of the program that weighed possible risks to cost, schedule and technical performance.

Despite remaining risks, the Navy said it decided that continuing the EMALS program was the best option for keeping work on the new carrier, CVN 78, on schedule.

To keep the program on schedule and limit cost growth, the Navy was starting detailed, fixed-price contract negotiations with General Atomics.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded in a recent report that the new launching system would not demonstrate full performance of a shipboard-ready system until at least seven months after it was due to begin installing it on the carrier, which is being built by Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).

The report called the program one of the highest risk factors in keeping the construction of the new carrier on cost and schedule. Northrop is due to deliver the carrier in 2015. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gary Hill)

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