The oft-maligned new aircraft-launching equipment that will be installed on the U.S. Navy's new class of aircraft carriers successfully catapulted four F/A-18E Super Hornets off a land-based runway late last month, the Navy and the equipment's manufacturer said.
The launch of live aircraft from the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, temporarily puts to rest fears that the emerging technology wouldn't be ready in time for installation on the Gerald R. Ford carrier, which is under construction in Newport News and due to be delivered to the fleet in 2015.
Under development for more than a decade, the new launch system uses motors that send a series of electric pulses through a line of electromagnets that thrust a jet down the track, much like the technology used in roller coasters.
It replaces the steam-driven catapults that have been used in carriers for the last 50 years.
The Navy said EMALS will reduce maintenance and personnel costs on new carriers and the aircraft the flattops launch.
unhappycamper comment: Too bad the Navy can't reduce the $40 billion dollar price tag for this new carrier.
Nimitz-class carriers cost around $4.5 billion dollars sans people and aircraft.
The last Nimitz-class carrier, the G.H.W. Bush sans people and aircraft, cost $6.8 billion dollars because of lots of overtime.
The steam catapault system is one of the highest maintenance cost items on the carriers. It is horribly obsolete, requires tremendous manpower to keep it running, is bulky, overly complex, and prone to breakages. The system is massive. It is only roughly 4% efficient (4% of steam energy is converted into propulsion). It also has two major issues. The first is it can't launch light aircraft (all current and future planned drones are too light). The second is that it is prone to transients which over accelerate aircraft creating dangerous conditions and damaging airframe (due to exceeding launch specifications). This all adds up to cost in airframe maintenance.
It is a 1950s era invention. There is a reason almost nothing in the world is powered by steam anymore. If we had the material science to build an electromagnetic catapult in the 1960s we never would have used steam.
It is a pretty good bet but I will try to withstand the onslaught.
Not that I support more military spending, I don't. I also don't see why we are designing something to launch Super Hornets when the Joint Strike Fighter (which is a miserable failure) is supposed to be the future for all branches of the military.
The technological advancement represented here is another story. This is the stuff that makes mag-lev trains function. It also holds potential for science fiction style rail guns and the ability to launch small payloads into space.
P.S. With respects to Chevy Chase, Gerald Ford was most probably our most athletic President (present company included).
10. The electromagentic catapult is designed to be able to launch all current and future aircraft.
Edited on Tue Jan-04-11 10:00 AM by Statistical
This includes the JSF (F-35C) and UAVs. The steam catapult has a minimum weight requirement which far exceeds all current and future planned drones. The super hornets are very heavy (relatively speaking), have similar takeoff characteristics as the JSF and aren't going away anytime soon.
If the catapult can launch the Supers it can launch anything the Navy has. The electromagnetic nature of the catapults means a launch profile can be programmed for each aircraft & loudout to optimize launch and minimize excess stress on the airframe. The JSF will eventually replace the Super Hornets but we are talking a decade plus time frame. In the interim the Ford will be able to launch both types of aircraft.
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