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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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Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By RugMuch on 12/21/2010 10:23:00 AM , Rating: 2
Wasn't Gerald R. Ford a clutz? Is this not a poor name for any fleet?

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By BladeVenom on 12/21/2010 10:36:19 AM , Rating: 4
Wait until they name a submarine after Clinton.

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By beerhound on 12/21/2010 10:57:52 AM , Rating: 5
The USS Lewinsky: Chock full of Seamen.

By amanojaku on 12/21/2010 11:11:01 AM , Rating: 5
They're covering her upper deck, too...

By Jedi2155 on 12/21/2010 11:59:43 AM , Rating: 4
And too many cases of man overboard...

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By amanojaku on 12/21/2010 10:47:01 AM , Rating: 5
I hate DT's spam filters. The quotes I wanted to post are flagged as spam.

First, Ford wasn't clumsy. He tripped once and it went viral. Secondly, the fleet, announced in 2007, was named after him because he was in the Navy, and the new fleet class was renamed in his honor after he died in 2006.

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By Sahrin on 12/21/2010 12:49:51 PM , Rating: 5
Naming warships after politicians is stupid. The idea that there will soon not be an Enterprise in commission soon is appalling. Enterprise is the proudest name in the history of the Navy.

Gerry Ford was a good guy, but how there is no Midway or Lexington or Coral Sea in the US Navy is beyond me.

By Scabies on 12/21/2010 1:40:45 PM , Rating: 3
I, too, like seeing craft named after stuff instead of people. Its an honor and all, but what happens when we have a name thats unpronounceable?

anyways, you said lexington:

By CharonPDX on 12/21/2010 3:42:27 PM , Rating: 3
Naming them after politicians who were in the Navy makes sense, though.

George H. W. Bush makes sense, too.

James E. Carter as well. (Although he has a submarine named after him, which makes a lot more sense for him.)

Ronald Reagan, though? He PLAYED a Navy pilot, he wasn't one. Same with Clinton, and George W. Bush.

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By johnsonx on 12/21/2010 11:10:30 PM , Rating: 3
there is an online petition to name to name the second ford-class carrier Enterprise (CV-79), which is scheduled to replace the Nimitz in 2018.

By johnsonx on 12/21/2010 11:15:36 PM , Rating: 3
curse you lack of edit function!

obviously I meant to type CVN-79

By US56 on 12/22/2010 2:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
Appealing to the vanity of politicians has paid off for the Navy. The reduction in the number of big carriers has been proportionately far less than cuts in front line combat units in the USAF and Army. As for the name Enterprise, the Navy made a huge mistake by scrapping the WWII era USS Enterprise CV-6. CV-6 was one of only two U.S. carriers built prior to WWII which survived the war, the other was USS Saratoga CV-3, and the only one built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. CV-6 had an unmatched combat record while surviving the most grievous enemy retaliation. USS Saratoga CV-3, was sunk during a nuclear weapons test in the late forties. One could say the U.S. Navy has a strange sense of history. If any, if ever, CV-3 and CV-6 should have been preserved as museum ships. A former co-worker who served for years as a "back seater" on A-3 Whales said there was a strong grass roots movement among serving and retired Navy officers and enlisted in the mid-fifties to save CV-6 from the scrappers but the Chief of Naval Operations at the time persisted since he wanted the hallowed name for the ship which would be the first U.S. nuclear powered carrier, CVAN-65, which was then in the later stages of planning and design. Although CVAN-65 has served admirably for nearly fifty years with a commendable Southeast Asia war record and surviving one of the worst accidents at sea visited upon any U.S. aircraft carrier, it has been, effectively, the Navy's prototype nuclear powered carrier and no other was ever built to the same design. Surely, the Navy will change their naming policy for capital ships before they get around to naming one after Billy Jeff Clinton, "Dubya" or Barry Dunham.

By phxfreddy on 12/26/2010 4:05:35 PM , Rating: 2
Totally agree. Also you should take a look at 100 year old coins versus now.

..... 100 years ago we had animalistic and greek deities on our we have caesars:

To wit: FDR replaced the Mercury head dime. Which one do you find more appealing?

They want us to worship our "kings". No Thanks. Only a lefty idiot could say yes to that one!

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By ZachDontScare on 12/21/2010 2:58:22 PM , Rating: 4
Ford was an athlete - he played football at Michigan. And he served in the navy during WW2.

People who think he was a 'clutz' are living examples of how easily the popular media can 're-write' history.

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By Amiga500 on 12/21/2010 4:15:06 PM , Rating: 3
Good point about the media influencing the stupid and easily manipulated.

RE: Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers
By priusone on 12/21/2010 11:51:00 PM , Rating: 2
I tell ya, every DT comment section has to have some anti- iTard comments. Just because they believe everything they see on TV doesn't mean they are all that bad.

By Bioniccrackmonk on 12/26/2010 11:51:40 AM , Rating: 2
If you believe everything you see on TV then yes, you are that bad.

By KCjoker on 12/21/2010 7:09:41 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely not, Ford was a great athlete in college. You have been hoodwinked by the media giving you that perception.

By DanNeely on 12/21/2010 12:11:33 PM , Rating: 2
With an ~50 year lifespan simply waiting until the old ones are scrapped isn't a realistic option; but neither is building aircraft that can only operate on part of the fleet.

By amanojaku on 12/21/2010 1:09:37 PM , Rating: 2
It is unlikely an existing carrier will ever see this, as stated in the second paragraph:
The new EMALS launch system is planned to be installed into the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers as they launch.
It's also unnecessary to refit existing carriers. There are only 11 supercarriers, and each will be replaced with a new Ford-class carrier upon being decommissioned. Three carriers have already been authorized to replace the Enterprise (1961), Nimitz (1975), and Eisenhower (1977). It would take too long to refit, as well.

By namechamps on 12/21/2010 2:11:53 PM , Rating: 5
You forget we are a declining empire. It is entirely likely we will never build 11 super carrier replacements.

By namechamps on 12/21/2010 2:17:20 PM , Rating: 2
Also forgot to add the last Nimtz class isn't scheduled to be decommissioned until 2058. That is a long time for part of the carrier fleet to be incapable of launching part of the aircraft fleet.

By JediJeb on 12/22/2010 2:01:28 PM , Rating: 2
But over the years we have always had this problem while switching from one class of ship to another. My cousin served in Vietnam on a carrier that had been a fighter plane carrier in WW2 but had been refitted to be a helicopter carrier by the time he was on it in the early 70s because the deck was too small for jets. There will be a role for all the ships to play as they reach their end of service.

By rcc on 12/22/2010 4:08:23 PM , Rating: 2
Not to be overly picky, well, maybe.... but I can't think of a single WW2 carrier that could only carry fighters but not dive bombers and torpedo bombers, etc.

As I recall, most of the conversions in the 70s were Essex Class carriers. Some of which were actually fitted with angled decks. In fact, a couple were active for a while flying A3Ds which was a very large (for the time) twin engine jet. It wasn't a wonderful match, but it worked. One of those was the Shangri-La CV-38 (later CVA). It comes to mind because my Dad was an A3 pilot on the Shangri-la and had some great sea stories about those ops, including a bad cat shot.

A major problem with the early jets, particularly the tail draggers, was the wooden decks on the old carriers.

By rcc on 12/22/2010 4:44:21 PM , Rating: 2
Brings to mind the old adage. "whether you think you can, or your can't, you are right"

Low power
By Owik2008 on 12/22/2010 1:17:57 AM , Rating: 2
I haven't read much up on this subject but I have a few questions. How well would the two systems compare in the event of power failure on the carrier. Surely you need a considerable more amount of power to drive a maglev system than a steam system.

If the steam proves more reliable in the case of a loss of power surely you would place a limit on the size and weight of aircraft designs to rather suit this limit and keep a reliable system in place?

I remember from documentaries that the organising of aircraft on deck is still done on a map with little models of the planes because computers can fail. I suspect not being able to launch aircraft is kind of a problem.

RE: Low power
By Brockway on 12/22/2010 6:12:01 AM , Rating: 2
The steam comes from the boilers that are heated by the reactors. Loss of power = loss of steam. They'd both be offline either way. Seems to me a steam cat would have more stuff to break than a magnetic one.

RE: Low power
By namechamps on 12/22/2010 8:20:45 AM , Rating: 3
Steam is simply a mechanism to transfer energy.

On a carrier all energy (to produce steam, to produce electricity, to produce propulsion, to produce clean water) comes from the reactors. They are redundant so losing both reactors likely means far worse things than not being able to launch planes.

The navy is simply modernizing the energy transfer mechanism.

RE: Low power
By Owik2008 on 12/22/2010 8:42:35 AM , Rating: 2
Both comments make a lot of sense, I guess you are right, loss of power means your are pretty screwed either way. I'd still be interested to know which one would be more cost effective to maintain.

I'll be interested to see what backup measures they put in place for the system (if I ever find out), power / computer or anything for that matter.

RE: Low power
By Akrovah on 12/22/2010 12:03:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be willing to bet that without all the high pressure piping and fewer moving parts, no valves, etc. that the Mag Cats will be signifigantly cheaper and less time cunsuming ot maintain.

Though i'd imagine it probably uses some kind of super capacitor to store the charge that is probably not exactly cheap.

RE: Low power
By JediJeb on 12/22/2010 1:56:27 PM , Rating: 2
Of course if you lose only the generator and not the reactor itself you could still have steam without electricity. But then without electricity you would not have the radar and communications so launching planes would still probably be stopped even if you still had steam to the catapult.

Big rail gun?
By Spivonious on 12/21/2010 10:23:24 AM , Rating: 2
So instead of a slug it fires an airplane?

RE: Big rail gun?
By MrTeal on 12/21/2010 10:47:00 AM , Rating: 3

Railguns that shoot Raptors: the Navy's first step towards sharks with lasers on their heads.

RE: Big rail gun?
By Mitch101 on 12/21/2010 10:50:10 AM , Rating: 2
Or a trojan rabbit. Nice pic choice!

RE: Big rail gun?
By SilthDraeth on 12/21/2010 12:12:57 PM , Rating: 2
Would be funny if it was a guauss gun instead.

RE: Big rail gun?
By ClownPuncher on 12/21/2010 12:42:47 PM , Rating: 2
How so?

By Amiga500 on 12/21/2010 2:15:40 PM , Rating: 2
With new carrier-based aircraft on the horizon that are heavier and faster than current aircraft

Seriously... since when did a fully loaded JSF weigh more than a fully loaded Tom?

Or go quicker?

The big advantages of the EM cats are (1)quicker frequency of launch, (2)potentially very reliable [c.f. steam cats] and (3)less shocks on the steam turbine system due to the bleeds.

Oh, and the Navy has flown C-130s off carrier decks before; so the chubby JSF's fat arse is not the reason for EM catapults. ;-)

RE: What?!?!
By Amiga500 on 12/21/2010 2:18:49 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, forgot, the A-3... probably heavier than a Tom.

Which has been brought to you by USN carriers since 1950something.

RE: What?!?!
By JonB on 12/21/2010 11:45:17 PM , Rating: 2
Every steam shot is desalinated water wasted. I was on the current Enterprise in 1984 and know how precious water could be for showers and drinking and cooking.

By chalupa on 12/21/2010 5:19:17 PM , Rating: 2
"I got excited once I was on the catapult,... The catapult stroke felt similar to a steam catapult and EMALS met all of the expectations I had."

RE: haha
By priusone on 12/21/2010 11:57:19 PM , Rating: 2
He's been using to much powdered soap.

This bodes well
By amanojaku on 12/21/2010 10:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
For the next generation of punkin chunkin.

I'm fairly sure
By Souka on 12/21/2010 12:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm fairly sure the Navy has begun retrofitting, or will soon, some of their carriers with maglev elevators for freight.

Rail gun, catapult, elevator.... same technology applied differently.

Maybe now at last ...
By US56 on 12/22/2010 4:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
this technology can be used for the first stage of a TSTO space vehicle (two or three stages to orbit counting the mag cat). Seems like that idea has been around since the fifties. The technology should scale sufficiently to launch a heavier vehicle from land at higher speeds using lower G's. Also has the great advantage that if there's a problem while accelerating on the cat they can just keep it on the ground.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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