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Navy tests electromagnetic launching system

December 29, 2010 — The Navy has been using steam for more than 50 years to launch aircraft from carriers. But it recently used an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, to launch an F/A-18E Super Hornet from a carrier. The test was conducted at the Naval Air Systems Command facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

“This is a tremendous achievement not just for the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment 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.”

EMALS is a complete carrier-based launch system designed for Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and future Ford-class carriers.

“I thought the launch went great,” said Lt. Daniel Radocaj, the test pilot from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) who made the first EMALS manned launch. “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.”

The mission and function of EMALS remain the same as the steam catapult; however, EMALS employs entirely different technologies that allow heavier and faster aircraft to launch. EMALS will deliver the necessary higher launch energy capacity as well as substantial improvements in system weight, maintenance, increased efficiency, and more accurate end-speed control.

“I’m excited about the improvement EMALS will bring to the fleet from a capability and reliability perspective,” said Cmdr. Russ McCormack, ALRE, PMA-251, deputy program manager for future systems. “EMALS was designed for just that purpose, and the team is delivering that requirement.” The system’s technology allows for a smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds, increasing the carrier’s ability to launch aircraft in support of the war fighter.

Engineers will continue system functional demonstration testing at NAVAIR Lakehurst. The team will expand aircraft launches with the addition of T-45 and C-2 aircraft next year.


Lt. Daniel Radocaj made the first EMALS manned launch last week. Photo credit: U.S. Navy

For the first time, the Navy launched a Super Hornet from a carrier using EMALS technology last week. Photo credit: Navy

The U.S. Navy is pursuing electromagnetic launch technology to replace the existing steam catapults on current and future aircraft carriers.

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