Aircraft

First installed electromagnetic aircraft launch system demonstrated

First installed electromagneti...
The recent test launched a dead-weight sled from the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
The recent test launched a dead-weight sled from the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
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Artist's concept of an F-35 launching from the Gerald R Ford
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Artist's concept of an F-35 launching from the Gerald R Ford
The dead-weight sled being attached top the catapult
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The dead-weight sled being attached top the catapult
The dead-weight sled beginning its run
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The dead-weight sled beginning its run
The dead-weight sled leaving the carrier runway
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The dead-weight sled leaving the carrier runway
The dead-weight sled splashes down
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The dead-weight sled splashes down
The dead-weight sled taking off
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The dead-weight sled taking off
The recent test launched a dead-weight sled from the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
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The recent test launched a dead-weight sled from the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

The age of steam is over – at least, as far as US aircraft carriers are concerned. At Newport News, Virginia, the USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) successfully test fired a revolutionary Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which replaces the steam catapults that have been standard carrier equipment since the 1950s. The test made a literal splash because it involved an unmanned dead-weight sled rather than an aircraft, which landed about a hundred yards off the bow of the still under construction vessel.

The first of her class, the Ford will be the first US navy ship to carry the electromagnetic launcher. Though it will be used on all future carriers, it will not be retrofitted to existing vessels. Under development for over 25 years and manufactured by General Atomics, EMALS is the first new carrier catapult technology in 60 years to advance to practical application. Instead of using a piston forced along by a head of steam, it uses computer-controlled, solid-state electrics to propel an armature down a track.

The EMALS is designed to replace the steam-powered launch system that has been the standard on strike carriers since the 1950s. According to the Navy, EMALS is capable of being used by a wide variety of aircraft, is near-silent, and enjoys smoother acceleration and a more consistent launch speed. It also has higher launch energy, is more reliable, mechanically simpler, and is easier to maintain.

Artist's concept of an F-35 launching from the Gerald R Ford
Artist's concept of an F-35 launching from the Gerald R Ford

EMALS has already been tested in the first phase of ACT testing that ended in 2011 and included 134 manned launches of aircraft, including the F/A-18E Super Hornet, T-45C Goshawk, C-2A Greyhound, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and F-35C Lightning II. The second phase saw launches of the EA-18G Growler and F/A-18C Hornet. In all, 452 manned launches were conducted.

The video below shows the June 16 launch.

Source: Huntington Ingalls

EMALS Tested aboard PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

10 comments
David Mayer
How is electrical energy stored so that device will not fail on power interruption? Steam was stored in a pressure vessel so that, even if the ship reactors failed, sufficient steam was stored to ensure a successful launch. That was fail-safe.
zevulon
steam is way more dangerous than electricity in general. pressurized steam versus pressurized (high voltage) electricity is a no brainer. steam explodes if it escapes. electricity can be grounded. the navy has detailed its plans to electrify almost all equipment on its carriers , step by step, over time. the carrier of the future has electromagnetic artillery in general, and does away with the largest of stockpiles of large artillery as a major fire and explosion risk while on board. furthermore, the carrier of the future iwill increasingly if not exclusively be launching unmanned bombers and unmanned fighter planes , use lasers and only small autocannons for defensive shooting and railguns for long artillery. finally, and perhaps MOST importantly the carrier of the future will be designed to increasingly use robots to displace onboard workers. thus, the electricity based power systems of future carriers will run squadrons of robots to displace literally THOUSANDS of human beings on board modern carriers. a modern nuclear powered carrier will have 10,000 humans. the future carrier will be 2/3 the size of the modern carrier use half the amount of people, use far more robots and still deliver MORE power to its electrical and motor systems while housing the same number or MORE aircraft. how can all that space saved for human sleeping quarters,extra food, water, large explodeable artillery stockpiles , steam power, and other vestigial objects and risks be done away with? ELECTRICITY POWERED SYSTEMS.
Tom Lee Mullins
I read that the system was first used by Disney to launch a roller coaster car. I read that this was the inspiration of it being used to launch aircraft from the carriers.
Derek Howe
David, IDK, but my guess would be a bunch of capacitors.
Stephen N Russell
Retro fit onto a Nimitz carrier for Field Testing alone. Be huge or on some shoreside runway at some NAS base.
Kevin Ritchey
Think of all the space saved by not having to fire boilers and their explosive potential. And the steam limits launch speed because of the mechanics.
JD Clinchfield
What I want to know is if launching that dead weight sled set a world record for heaviest non-powered object ever intentionally skipped across the surface of water? That whole launch system is pretty cool either way...
RichardMcDowell
This was a local event and the press was sent home early on, before the successful launches in the afternoon. Note: dead weight sled was less than half the weight of a F18.
pmshah
Slightest interruption in the system and planes also would follow the same trajectory as these dead weights, probably land closer too.
Illini_Rob
"unmanned dead-weight sled"? I read that while holding my unmanned computer mouse and drinking from my unmanned cup. My chair was manned of course.