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US Navy Successfully Launches A Fighter Jet With An Electromagnetic Catapult

Image: US Navy

US Navy began work on the world’s most expensive warship, the USS Gerald R. Ford, back in 2005. The massive 1,106-foot long aircraft carrier was deployed successfully only a while ago. This $13 billion ship comes packed with cutting-edge warship technology, but its most important feature is the advanced aircraft launch system.

The US Navy’s next generation, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is under-construction for a very long time, launching massive truck -like steel sleds in trials for the preparation of the actual aircraft launch. Last Friday, on July 28th, the US Navy successfully tested the aircraft launch system EMALS for the first time by launching an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the flight deck. The aircraft was successfully recovered on the USS Gerald using Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system.

Because of the shorter runways of an aircraft carrier, jets require an extra push to thrust them into the air. It was previously provided with the help of mechanical catapults. The steam was generated by the nuclear reactor of the ship to power these systems. The steam coming off of the reactor pushed a piston down a groove in the flight deck to drag the aircraft, while providing the adequate thrust to push it into the air.

Source: USNI News

The system was introduced in the World War II and was pretty handy to launch the craft back then. However, the issues of excessive maintenance and power adjustment became a hurdle in the path of its success. The power of the catapult is excellent for the fighter jets, but as the smaller drones have come along, power adjustment is a big issue.

The EMALS uses a railgun-like technique to launch the jets. The electromagnetic system takes power directly from ship’s generator, and powers the electromagnets to accelerate the jet along the runway, like a slug propels a railgun.

Source: USNI News

The EMALS technology was successfully tested, but only after its fair share of glitches. In the previous public test, the system failed and launched after the departure of media. President Trump openly criticized the technology saying, “Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated; you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. …You’re going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

The commanding officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford, Captain Rick McCormack announced to the press that,

“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.”

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