President Donald Trump has again dissed the Navy’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, known as EMALS.
This time, his comments came as he discussed wasteful military spending, the Washington Post reported Sept. 28.
“It’s like when you get a new car and you have to be a computer genius to fix your seat,” Trump reportedly said. “The seat’s moving all over the place, it’s unbelievable.”
It’s the second time he’s spoken out against the Navy’s new catapult technology, installed on the aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford.
Trump’s initial criticism of the system came in a May 8 interview with TIME, in which he recounted a conversation with an unnamed sailor about the development issues the Navy experienced with EMALS.
“You know the catapult is quite important,” said Trump in the Time interview. “So I said what is this? Sir, this is our digital catapult system. He said well, we’re going to this because we wanted to keep up with modern [technology]. I said, ‘You don’t use steam anymore for catapult?’ ‘No sir.’ I said, ‘Ah, how is it working?’ ‘Sir, not good. Not good. Doesn’t have the power. You know the steam is just brutal. You see that sucker going and steam’s going all over the place, there’s planes thrown in the air.’
“It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated. You have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said — and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said what system are you going to be — ‘Sir, we’re staying with digital.’ I said no you’re not. You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”
Just days later, then-acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley denied that Trump had been officially briefed on the ship and its capabilities.
Trump has visited the Ford twice this year and never mentioned EMALS, instead, touting the ship as being “the newest, largest and most advanced aircraft carrier in the history of this world.”
On July 28, the Navy put the Ford to sea and tested both the EMALS and its counterpart system for assisting aircraft landings — the Advanced Arresting Gear.
The system performed as advertised, though officials admit it isn’t yet fully operational and won’t be until 2019, when a software upgrade will fix the remaining catapult issues that currently restrict some launches.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.