President Trump is applying pressure on the U.S. Navy to turn back the clock and return to steam-powered catapults used for launching the jets from the aircraft carriers. The good news is it is expected to save billions of dollars, but the bad news is it would take almost 20 years to complete.
This is causing another clash with Congress.
The Navy is wanting the electromagnetic launch system for the new aircraft carriers, and Trump has criticized them for the last two years over this decision. The Commander in Chief claims, “You have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.”
While he was in Japan, he told the U.S. service members there on the USS Wasp located on a Naval base on the south side of Tokyo, Japan, “So I think I’m going to put an order: When we build a new aircraft carrier, we’re going to use steam. We’re spending all that money on electric, and nobody knows what it’s going to be like in bad conditions.” Earlier in May 2017, he told Time magazine, he informed military commanders, “[You’re] going to go**amned steam.”
Reporters pressed for answers as they questioned the Navy about Trump’s statements. The Navy told the reporters declined all interviews and requested they get their answers from the White House.
The White House also did not give any comments on whether or not the president will give the order to abandon the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and move to steam powered.
The Naval admirals stand behind their Commander in Chief with the catapults.
Naval experts disagree because there are already ships in the process of being built at a cost of $11-13 billion per ship. They are saying if Congress approves the switch over, they would not have their first steam carrier for another 15 years at best.
Bryan Clark is a retired Naval officer whose position was a senior adviser to the chief of naval operations, stated, “Trump’s comments seem much more interventionist than he has been on this issue in the past. Even if Trump were to order a return to steam, there’s a lot of gears that have to turn in the Pentagon to turn the president’s desire into a requirement.”
Clark is now working as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
He stated the two carriers being built at this time are known as the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers named Enterprise and the Kennedy. They would have to redesign both carriers, which are “too far along in construction.”
Clark commented, ““Ten years down the line is when you could conceivably change back to steam catapults.”
Another former Naval Department civilian and an officer, Thomas Callender, who is now a Heritage Foundation senior research fellow stated, “If you’re serious and were to try to abandon the electromagnetic system … it would be 15 years from now, and it would wind up costing even more money to do that major redesign of the aircraft carrier. The Navy can’t just go back and build another Nimitz-class carrier, which was designed in the late ’60s. The Navy has committed to this plan and going back is going to cost more in the long run even if you have better reliability initially with steam, as Trump hopes.”
There are some experts who support the Commander in Chief.
Jerry Hendrix is the Vice President of the Telemus Group and is also a retired Navy flight officer.
He stated, “It’s not a bad thing to try to go back to a cheaper method. The Navy believes that over the 50-year life of the ship, it will be cheaper to operate the Ford class, but that’s unproven. It’s a good thing when you have a commander in chief take an in-depth interest in an aspect of the military.”
Hendrix predicts there will be push-back and both feel it will come from Congress more than the Navy.
Trump questioned the crowd of sailors as he was in Tokyo as to which they prefer, steam or electric. The crowd of sailors erupted with the response of steam.
One of the sailors said jokingly, “electric system works better for the enemy!”
Another downside which many overlooked for the electronic system is on a report from this month stating the electromagnetic systems are still in the testing phase and “the reliability of those systems remains a concern.”
This was released by the Government Accountability Office and should be taken as a warning.