Home » Aviation » Navy Has Begun EMALS Testing on Carrier Ford


Navy Has Begun EMALS Testing on Carrier Ford

Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the James River during the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier three for the final stages of construction and testing in November 2013. US Navy photo.

Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the James River during the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier three for the final stages of construction and testing in November 2013. US Navy photo.

The Navy conducted its first-ever shipboard full-speed catapult shot with the General Atomics Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) aboard the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) earlier this month, the Navy said in a May 15 statement.

An artist's concept of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). General Atomics Image

An artist’s concept of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). General Atomics Image

EMALS will replace steam catapults on the Ford-class carriers. It is more maintainable, reliable and efficient than the steam system, generates more launch energy and puts less stress on the aircraft by creating a smoother, more linear acceleration, according to the Navy statement.

The recent test shots were called “no-loads,” as nothing was attached to the launching shuttle. The test was meant to demonstrate the integration of the catapult system. In the next phase of testing this summer, the catapults will launch “dead loads” – wheeled steel vessels up to 80,000 pounds that simulate the weight of an aircraft – to verify that the catapult and each of its components are working properly.

“This is a very exciting time for the Navy,” Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers Rear Adm. Tom Moore said in the statement.
“For the first time in over 60 years, we’ve just conducted 22 no-load test shots using electricity instead of steam technology.”

Moore has previously said the dead load testing would take place in June in the James River, near the Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia.

On the other end of the carrier, the Navy has had problems with the GA Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) that is two years behind its testing schedule.

Ford is 90-percent complete and is expected to be commissioned in March 2016.

  • NavySubNuke

    “It is more maintainable, reliable and efficient than the steam system”
    It is funny to read that and then also read about how the system isn’t going to be able to launch as many planes as the steam system —– clearly someone is lying and I don’t think it is the data on how many planes can be launched.
    Not that you can expect any kind of honesty when it comes to carriers – they must be protected at all costs – even if that cost is the truth…..

    • William Grant

      So less faster.. Doesn’t mean “less maintainable, reliable and efficient than the steam system” so why would they be lying?

      • NavySubNuke

        I guess it depends on what you mean by “reliable and efficient” —- in my mind that speaks to sustained performance i.e. ability to launch x sorties per day – but hey who cares about things like combat performance when there are fitrep bullets to write….

      • NavySubNuke

        Nice job liking your own posts by the way – I guess you might as well since no one else is going to.

    • USNVO

      I am not sure what you are talking about concerning steam versus EMALS. Are you talking different types of aircraft or the number of aircraft that can be launched per minute?
      1. EMALS can launch an aircraft every 15 seconds, same as a steam catapult, pretty much forever, same as a steam catapult, but without the huge maintenance of steam piping.
      2. EMALS can launch every aircraft in the inventory, and with the exception of an issue on the F-18 with wing tanks being over stressed and requiring a software change to adjust the power curve, no issues have been found to date on aircraft compatibility. Beyond this, it potentially offers the ability to launch both heavier aircraft and lighter aircraft than the existing steam catapults. Of course, they probably don’t have profiles worked out for the A-7, F-8, F-14, A-4, A-6, RA-5, KA-3, etc and other older aircraft, but not seeing that as a problem.

      • NavySubNuke

        It actually can’t launch an aircraft that often – at least according to the testing community. There are several reports outlining the reliability issues associated with the EMALs system and the problems the Navy has encountered during testing. Everyone knows it can launch a plane – any plane it needs to – the issue is how many planes it can launch per day – including how many planes it can launch between major faults that require repairs.
        There is certainly still time to fix it – but as of now it is not looking good and it doesn’t look like the Navy will be able to get the same number of sorties per day as they do with the current steam system.

        • USNVO

          Well, time will tell, but considering the last article I saw, I am much more concerned about the ability of people to understand reliability then with the system. There was roughly 3000 sled launches and something like 452 aircraft launches from the land system during system development. Of that, reliability was roughly 240 launches between failures, but there was no breakdown of failure mode or required maintenance. The target is roughly 5 times that. Sounds bad, but you are talking something like a grand total of 13 failures. Not nearly enough to draw any conclusions, especially since it is a developmental system. Especially since it is a complex system, you expect a large number of failures during initial operations and then a rapid drop as the system is broken in. So again, without any understanding of the distribution of failures or their impact, you can’t really make any conclusions, good or bad.

          • NavySubNuke

            Agreed on all parts – estimating reliability in highly reliability systems is always tricky and this is new and highly complex. But I still feel like the Navy rushed it – they didn’t even really start carrier like operational testing until late 2013 early 2014 —- far too late in the design and construction process to really make changes to FORD that weren’t ridiculously expensive. At least it is better than the build than test issues all three services have gone through with F35 but it still isn’t good.
            I guess my real concern is that the Navy keeps making these prototyping and testing mistakes over and over and the lessons aren’t being learned or shared with other parts of the Navy. When money is good and there is a real push to get things done this doesn’t matter – but in the current fiscal environment and in the age where every dollar is scrutinized far beyond proportion to its value it is a real issue the Navy needs to address better.
            As do the rest of the services – but lets not get distracted talking about their problems because comparing them to Navy is like comparing a steak from Applebee’s to a steak from Ruth’s Chris.

  • Ctrot

    These launch and recovery systems should have been fully tested and proven ashore before ever going into a ship.

    • Dan

      There is no possible way to fully test an unproven system until installed in a operational situation, she is a brand new system and completely unproven. No one cared the Nimitz design couldn’t launch all aircraft from the starboard cat, things get better with experience and time. The Ford could in fact be obsolete when Enterprise is finished, look at Nimitz vs. CVN 77, study the differences. Ford is a prototype.

      • steve

        Just like the J.S.F. . Make it before it even works not knowing if it will ever work ! The J.S.F. (joint strike fighter) is not working and is stupidly carrying on. Like the movie “Dumber and Dumber ” Have stupid will travel.

  • Curtis Conway

    The day we start flushing the Truth is the day we deserve everything we get. The ‘Bird in the Hand’ is the USS America (LHA-6).

    This article’s info is all good and fine, but it in no way demonstrates long term operability, endurance and wear numbers on extended use of these new devices over time. Do you want to hang your life on that risk assessment analysis?

    • William Grant

      And do you think they could demonstrate long term operability on the first CVNs? Should that hold us back… No!

  • NavySubNuke

    The launch and recovery testing has been going on for a while at the land based prototype in New Jersey but has yet to be fully proven. Also the design was set and the components were installed before it even began testing that is actually representative of an aircraft carrier.
    Problems with EMALs – and redesign/rework to correct problems – is one of the 5 reasons Ford is so badly over budget.

  • Ctrot

    I know they didn’t. See NavySubNuke’s response.

  • Dan

    Give it time, she will be an incredible asset to our fleet. Its easy being a arm chair quarterback.

  • Marjus Plaku

    And yet the Chinese are supposed to have this too in a few years. I doubt it, they might make a monkey version of it, but nothing beats US military design specifications.

  • ConstitutionalStudent

    So will an EMP prevent aircraft launches?