Military

USS Gerald R Ford launches first aircraft using electromagnetic catapult

USS Gerald R Ford launches fir...
 An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
 An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
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 An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
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 An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
USS Gerald R Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations
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USS Gerald R Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations
The F/A-18F Super Hornet landing on the deck of USS Gerald R Ford
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The F/A-18F Super Hornet landing on the deck of USS Gerald R Ford
The F/A-18F Super Hornet launching from the USS Gerald R Ford
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The F/A-18F Super Hornet launching from the USS Gerald R Ford

The USS Gerald R Ford scored a double first less than a week after commissioning, as the nuclear-powered supercarrier launched and recovered a fighter plane for the first time using an electromagnetic catapult. On July 28, an F/A-18F Super Hornet piloted by Commander Jamie Struck was launched from the flight deck by the ElectroMAgnetic Launch System (EMALS) shortly after arrival, when it made the first arrested landing with the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system.

At first sight, the landing and takeoff of the Super Hornet on the Ford looked as conventional as any other touchdown and launch, but the superficial similarity hid technology that had never been used at sea before. For over 60 years, aircraft carriers around the world have launched fixed-wing aircraft using steam catapults, wherein a head of live steam blasted a piston down a slot in the flight deck that dragged the airplane along and hurled it into the air.

It's a system that worked, but it's complicated and requires a lot of crew to operate it and maintain it. Manufactured by General Atomics, the EMALS aboard the Ford replaces, for the first time, all that steam plumbing with an electromagnetic rail gun that does the same job, but is much simpler in design and easier to power. According to the US Navy, it's more reliable, easier to maintain, and has a higher launch energy capacity than previous systems.

The F/A-18F Super Hornet launching from the USS Gerald R Ford
The F/A-18F Super Hornet launching from the USS Gerald R Ford

To allow fast jets to land on the relatively tiny deck of the carrier, the conventional arresting wire system has been replaced with the new AAG system. Also built by General Atomics, this replaces the old hydraulic arrestor wire system used to decelerate aircraft with one based on electric motors and energy recovery systems. Because the AAG is computer-controlled, it requires fewer crew to operate, can be quickly set for everything from light drones to heavy fighter bombers, and has self-diagnostic systems to reduce maintenance costs.

"AAG and EMALS have been successfully tested ashore at Lakehurst, New Jersey, but this is the first shipboard recovery and launch of a fleet fixed-wing aircraft," says Captain Rick McCormack, Ford's commanding officer.

The F/A-18F Super Hornet landing on the deck of USS Gerald R Ford
The F/A-18F Super Hornet landing on the deck of USS Gerald R Ford

The USS Gerald R Ford is the first new US aircraft carrier design in 40 years as well as the first in the Gerald R. Ford class. The second ship, USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is under construction and work has begun on the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80).

The video below shows the first electromagnetic launch from the USS Gerald R Ford.

Source: US Navy

USS Gerald R. Ford's First Fixed-Wing Aircraft Launch

12 comments
Tom Lee Mullins
I believe it was an idea that came from a roller coaster in Disney World for launching. I had read that the military was taking a look at the idea. I guess they went with it since it is now being used on their aircraft carrier.
christopher
Nuclear powered warships :-( What could possibly go wrong?
JustinTWoods
Well, the U.S. has had nuclear-powered warships since the USS Nautilus in 1955 and, since then, has always had nuclear submarines and carriers. And not a single nuclear incident. In fact, in the entire history of nuclear power, worldwide, there have only been nuclear incidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. And I know we're all supposed to live in imminent fear of another major nuclear disaster, but the truth of the matter is that fewer people have died from nuclear disaster than from mining/burning coal, even over the same time span. On the whole, nuclear power is far safer than many other conventional power generation methods, far more efficient, and far less polluting. A lot of fear stems from fear of radiation, but the latest studies are all indicating that previous models for radiation danger vastly underestimate the amount of radiation which is "safe." Short duration exposure to even relatively high amounts of radiation is proving to have few long-lasting effects.
teddilu
The 3 nuclear incidents that are in the public domain are undeniable and led to mass evacuations. Who knows how many others? We will never know anything about that from the secretive nuclear industry. I know a few more: a plutonium satellite which was deorbited, the Kursk .. a few more I dont remember names. I know a few plants which went near to having an incident due to river floods (Missouri, France). I know another plant built directly over an active geological fault, which could cut the plant in half. What is undeniable is the vertical rise of cancer incidence in the last 50 years. Many cancers which are now common were virtually unknown 100 years ago. Radiation? Food and water contamination? Air pollution? who knows. All of the above probably: cancer stems probably from cells being continously attacked from mutagenic factors which eventually overcome the (many!) cell and organism defences. A big no-no for scientists who want to investigate this stuff and make a living.. so few do i guess. So there we are , consuming happily until the first cancer. Good luck everyone
owlbeyou
Can't help but think that an aircraft carrier can easily be a sitting duck (and a nuclear one at that) that is limited by the range of its fighter jets. An adversary that designs and uses missile technology that has a range that is further reaching and at a faster flight can quickly turn the tables around, and I believe the Russians have them. This tit-for-tat war business is going to get us in a heap of trouble if we keep it up. The time for disarmament is becoming crucial, more than ever.
f8lee
And nobody mentioned the Simi Valley (CA) meltdown of 1959?: http://theantimedia.org/the-worst-nuclear-disaster-in-us-history-that-youve-never-heard-about/
Hawkewood
Good thing it was a plane and not a golf ball.
EZ
I guess they're necessary. After all we need more guns and ammo if we're going to continue controlling the world.
Will,TheTink
This is great! One more system that can be compromised by EMT! No matter how invincible a system has proven to be, there are always glitches to be exploited!
Derek Howe
While I think this is good/cool, and a natural evolution of launching aircraft. Ultimately, I concur with "owlbeyou". One hyper sonic missile, and the carrier, aircraft, & firepower, along with thousands of sailor's on board, all gone. It's too easy/big of a target for an enemy.