EMALS launching first aircraft  (Source: Navy)
Test launch went perfectly according to test pilot

The U.S. Navy has used steam to launch aircraft from the deck of aircraft carriers for over 50 years and the technology behind the steam catapults is well proven and reliable. The problem with the current steam system is that the system is reaching the limits of its operational capability with how fast it can shoot aircraft off the deck of a carrier. 

With new carrier-based aircraft on the horizon that are heavier and faster than current aircraft, the steam catapult system used today will not be able to launch all future aircraft. The U.S. Navy has announced that it has made history with the first aircraft launched using an electro-magnetic aircraft launch system or EMALS. The new EMALS launch system is planned to be installed into the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers as they launch.

"This is a tremendous achievement not just for the ALRE team, but for the entire Navy," said Capt. James Donnelly, ALRE program manager. "Saturday's EMALS launch demonstrates an evolution in carrier flight deck operations using advanced computer control, system monitoring and automation for tomorrow's carrier air wings."

The first aircraft to be launched using the EMALS system was a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet and the aircraft was launched from the Lakehurst, N.J. test site that the Navy uses for testing new hardware. The test pilot behind the stick of the aircraft was Lt. Daniel Radocaj. He said, "I thought the launch went great. I got excited once I was on the catapult, but I went through the same procedures as on a steam catapult. The catapult stroke felt similar to a steam catapult and EMALS met all of the expectations I had."

Defense News reports that more than 722 launches of test loads have been made from the EMALS catapult at the Lakehurst test facility at speeds up to 180 knots, which is the highest speed requirement for the system. The first aircraft launch was on December 18 and several more launches using the system were conducted the next day.

Next year the test program for the EMALS will include the C-2 COD aircraft and the T-45 Goshawk.

The Navy also recently made a record setting test shot with an electric railgun that needs no explosives or propellant.

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