Trump Wants ‘Goddamned Steam,’ Not Digital Catapults on Aircraft Carriers – The Atlantic

The goal for the upgraded system is to use carriers to create “an operational honeycomb of interconnected forces with reach, range and lethality against air, sea, space, and land-based targets,” as Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake wrote for the website Breaking Defense in 2015.

Despite some high-profile failures in early testing, EMALS is now nearly complete and ready for sea trials. It represents one of three major initiatives in the Navy’s push to go upgrade its weapons systems for the digital era.

Trump’s insistence on steam is perhaps bewildering, but also consistent with some of his other views about technology. After all, the president has repeatedly talked about returning to America’s golden age of manufacturing—an idea that’s laughable, if regrettable, to anyone who has looked closely at the forces driving the global economy. Among them: the rise of automation, which promises to dramatically transform the way humans work across multiple industries, and which Trump has all but ignored.

Then again, for a man who is clearly concerned with hugeness, you’d think Trump might appreciate EMALS: In working order, the system can launch anything from the sleekest drone to the sturdiest F-35, and it blasts through the technological limits imposed by steam. Trump has demonstrated a fondness for super carriers, and has said he plans to increase the U.S. fleet from 10 to 12.

He hasn’t, however, indicated how he plans to pay for that. The cost of a single new, Ford-class carrier—about $11 billion without cost overruns—would eat up nearly 20 percent of Trump’s proposed defense budget increase, Reuters reported in March.

The Navy says it is scrambling to figure out how to address the president’s concerns. A spokesman said it will issue a statement on Thursday afternoon, and figure out talking points for Naval leaders should the question come up at public events.

In the meantime, Trump might do well to worry more about the signature infrastructure promise of his own campaign, than a near-complete military project he doesn’t seem to understand.  

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