The US Navy plans to use electromagnetic force to launch F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet of the deck from its next generation aircraft carrier next year.
An operational launch of the Navy’s Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, will mark the first time in 60-years that a fighter has shot off of a ship without using the current steam-catapult systems, senior Navy officials were quoted as saying by Scout Friday.
The first EMALS system has been under construction for several years aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, or CVN 78, the first in class of the new carriers.
Ship integration and testing for the EMALS technology will mark a substantial milestone in a program which, until now, has largely been conducting deadload launches off of a ship and land-based flight tests at the Navy facility in Lakehurst, NJ.
Plans for the F/A-18 aboard the Ford come as Navy engineers complete testing and integration of the new electro-magnetic catapult aboard the Ford, Ensign Marc Rockwellpate told Scout Warrior in a statement.
“As part of this test phase, a total of 242 dead-load launches were conducted. The EMALS system is now undergoing planned maintenance both aboard ship and at the land-based test site, in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in preparation for CVN 78 delivery. The first launches with FA-18E/F aircraft from CVN 78 are scheduled in FY17,” he said.
The EMALS system consists of a series of transformers and rectifiers designed to convert and store electrical power through a series of motor generators before brining power to the launch motors on the catapults, Navy officials have explained.
By having an electrical pulse come down, the aircraft is pulled down to the catapult to launch; the precise weight of the aircraft can be dialled in. As the aircraft accelerates the catapult, it can reach the precise speed it needs to launch, Senior Navy officials said.
Unlike steam catapults, which use pressurized steam, a launch valve and a piston to catapult aircraft, EMALS uses a precisely determined amount of electrical energy. As a result, EMALS is designed to more smoothly launch aircraft while reducing stress and wear and tear on the airframes themselves.
On the ship, EMALS will be engineered such that any of the ship’s four catapults will be able to draw power from any one of three energy storage groups on the ship, officials said.
As the catapult troughs for the USS Ford’s EMALS system were being built and integrated with the overall system, the system’s technology has been in the process of extensive testing at a Naval Air Warfare Center facility in Lakehurst, N.J.
The ground-based EMALS catapult tests have launched EA-18G Growlers, F/A-18 Super Hornets, C-2 Greyhound planes and E2D Advanced Hawkeyes, among others. In fact, EMALS even launched an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lakehurst, Navy officials said.
The USS Ford has been under construction in recent years at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls. Equipment for the EMALS system has been in development on board the ship for several years, Navy officials said.
Some of the equipment, such as the motor-generators, are lower in the ship so they had to be part of the super-lift early on, service officials explained.