Propelling a 5 ton jet to liftoff speed over short distances has been the key to US Naval success for 50 years and the reason why their aircraft carriers are unique. Their steam “catapults” allowed fast enough acceleration for launch.
It was a good run, but it’s time to run out of steam.
The Navy made history Saturday when it launched the first aircraft using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, technology.
“This is a tremendous achievement not just for the ALRE team, but for the entire Navy,” said Capt. James Donnelly, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment 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 future Ford-class carriers. Using electromagnetic propulsion, it will increase the power of the catapults and allow larger aircraft to launch from aircraft carriers. It will be capable of launching everything from lightweight unmanned to heavy strike fighters.
“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.”