December 7 is a solemn day for the U.S. Navy and in our nation’s history. This year marked the 78th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when our nation entered a World War with a devastated naval fleet. After Pearl Harbor, and facing a grave threat, our country came together to rebuild the fleet, which ultimately helped win the war. And just as it has throughout history, the Navy continues to defy the odds and innovate in order to remain the most powerful force on the world’s seas.
More than ever, we need to build for the future and invest in new technologies that will support our warfighters, maximize value for taxpayer dollars, and maintain our nation’s global competitive edge. Equipping our troops and sailors with the best, most advanced capabilities to defend our national interests should always be our objective.
It is in this spirit that the second Ford-class aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), was christened on December 7. This is a huge step forward for naval aviation technology and for moving the Navy into the 21st century. Following tradition, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the ship’s namesake and its sponsor, will break a bottle of American sparkling wine on the carrier’s hull. The ship is a testament to ingenuity and a symbol of American force, but it’s what lies under the hull that truly sets it apart.
The Ford-class carriers are both the most efficient and technologically advanced aircraft carriers ever developed. The Ford-class will save the Navy billions over its lifetime thanks to new technologies and efficiencies. One such technology is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is replacing steam catapults on carriers. EMALS is a critical technology leap in modernizing the Fleet to address evolving threats while also meeting the needs of the Navy of the future.
Currently, decades-old steam technology limits the capabilities of our Fleet in terms of which types of aircraft it can launch, and with respect to the integration of future weapons systems. EMALS allows the launch of the full range of aircraft in current and future air wings. Critically, this also includes the ability to launch drones – something our current carriers cannot do, and which could make a life or death difference to troops in harm’s way.
In addition to expanding the types of aircraft that can be launched, EMALS significantly improves the launch rate. With EMALS integrated, the Kennedy and other Ford-class carriers will have a sortie generation rate (the number of aircraft able to be launched per day) improved by a full 33 percent over our existing carriers. In other words, EMALS allows our Navy to launch more aircraft more efficiently.
The new technology on Ford-class carriers isn’t just theoretical. It works. These and other critical new technologies on the Ford-class will help the Navy stay ahead of our competition. As China and Russia continue to invest in their militaries, naval technology is at the forefront of their development. In fact, China is currently in the process of building a carrier using its own electromagnetic aircraft launch technology. We cannot afford to fall behind.
India and France have also shown an interest in these technologies. Adoption of EMALS by our allies will provide greater opportunity for coordination and interoperability between our navies in training exercises, disaster relief, humanitarian aid and military missions.
As we wrap up 2019 by remembering Pearl Harbor and celebrating the christening of the Kennedy, we must also ensure our nation’s leaders remain focused on equipping our military forces with the best technologies and capabilities possible for the years and decades ahead. The costs of not doing so are too great. Instead of trying to keep pace with our adversaries, the focus should be on remaining ahead of the curve and the envy of militaries across the world. Let’s put the future in the hands of the men and women who fight for our freedom every day.
George Landrith is the President of Frontiers of Freedom