Northrop Grumman and General Atomics have won US Navy contracts to develop competitively an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) for the navy's CVX next-generation aircraft carrier.

The two companies, selected from seven bidders, will perform EMALS programme definition and risk reduction tasks. Northrop Grumman's contract is worth $62 million, General Atomics' is worth $60 million.

Planned work includes the development and demonstration of full-scale, reduced-length, integrated prototypes by the end of 2003. EMALS is designed to replace steam catapults.

One contractor will be selected for engineering and manufacturing development, which will run from 2004-9. A production contract is scheduled for 2008, with deliveries starting two years later.

EMALS should be significantly smaller than today's systems, while being able to launch current and future naval fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned combat air vehicles. The USN wants to trim the number of catapult operators while reducing the life-cycle cost.

Westinghouse, with expertise in energy storage, power conversion and electrical linear motors, is supporting Northrop Grumman. General Atomics has worked on electromagnetic guns for the US Air Force and has designed electromagnetic launchers for torpedoes and aircraft carrier catapults.

Plans call for the first CVX to be procured in fiscal year 2006, with the ship becoming operational in FY2013 as the replacement for the USS Enterprise. The CVX will have an integrated island design, a new propulsion plant, EMALS and other improvements over today's carriers.

Source: Flight International