Home » Aviation » EMALS Fix Finalized To Reduce Stress Put On Heaviest Airplanes During Ford-Class Carrier Launch

EMALS Fix Finalized To Reduce Stress Put On Heaviest Airplanes During Ford-Class Carrier Launch

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

The Navy completed testing on a software fix for its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) that will allow the heaviest planes to take off with less stress to the airframe, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced this week.

The EMALS team found during April 2014 testing that airplanes carrying full 480-gallon wing-mounted external fuel tanks were experiencing a great amount of stress on the airframe.

“During certain launches with full wing-mounted external fuel tanks, the system was exceeding acceptable load levels within the wings of the aircraft during the initial release of the launch sequence. … This presented a risk to the fatigue life of the aircraft. It was not a risk to the ship or to the EMALS system,” NAVAIR spokesman Rob Koon told USNI News.
“If this had gone unaddressed, it would have limited the F/A-18E/F from performing certain missions aboard CVN-78, and impacted the ship’s ability to conduct its planned Operational Test schedule.”

EMALS and the Advanced Arresting Gear system, both of which are being fielded for the first time on the newly commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), fine-tune the forces they put on the airplanes taking off or landing based on their weight and size, to most efficiently launch and recover the planes without putting undue stress on the airframes. This is meant to reduce maintenance on the airplanes and extend their service lives.

The software fix will now allow EMALS to handle the upper limit of its workload – the heaviest planes, Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers with full external fuel tanks – without exceeding stress limits on the airplanes. Koon said that the problem did not hinder any testing on EMALS so far – all airplanes launched successfully – but rather the concern was the wellbeing of the airplanes over time.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, right, and an EA-18G Growler from the Shadowhawks of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 demonstrate an aerial refueling during an air-power demonstration above the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). US Navy Photo

“We were confident since the day that the issue was uncovered that it was solvable,” George Sulich, EMALS integrated program team lead, said in a NAVAIR news release.
“The beauty of the system is that issues such as these can be accomplished with software updates instead of major hardware changes to machinery.”

The fix’s design, development, laboratory testing and dead-load testing – which uses sleds that are weighted to represent various aircraft types – were all completed in 2015.

Along with other software fixes that had been made to EMALS, this fix was loaded onto the system at a test site at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Beginning in April of this year, 152 dead-load launches were conducted, and then just recently the EMALS team conducted final tests with real aircraft carrying instruments to measure the forces being put of the airframes.

The software fix will be uploaded to the EMALS aboard Ford in 2019, when the ship goes in for its post-shakedown availability. That shipyard availability is the first opportunity to update the EMALS software without disrupting ship operations, Koon said, and presents no risk to the ship or any airplanes by waiting.

“There is no urgency to apply the fix, as shipboard launches of F/A-18s with [external fuel tanks] will not be conducted until 2019, following CVN-78’s Post Shakedown Availability,” Koon said.
“There will be no impact because the aircraft launched prior to that time will not have [external fuel tanks]. [Post-shakedown availability] is the next availability for incorporating the software updates aboard CVN-78 without disrupting its upcoming test schedule.”

  • Duane

    It’s so silly that a small cadre of grumpy old men, including POTUS, have made a cottage industry out of condemning EMALs, demanding we go back to 65 year old steam cat technology, because we happened to run into inevitable challenges during development of a brand new technology.

    Same silly mentality led to demands that we go back to horses and carriages in the early 1900s because all those dangerous horseless carriages weren’t perfected machines.

    There’s ALWAYS a cadre of die hard, never changers who mindlessly oppose the advance of technology.

    • FelixA9

      One can find this same Luddite-mentality almost anywhere. Anybody who starts whining about something not being “proven” comes to mind. As if something could ever be “proven” right off the drawing board. Don’t know if they’re timid or just stupid. Likely both.

      • Duane

        Yup. “Proven” comes only with time and operations … and battle systems can only be proved preliminarily in exercises, but finally and fully only in actual battle. Given that our military is intended first and foremost to prevent war, if it is successful, we’ll have only rare instances of actual battle. When was the last time we had a real surface warfare battle? A real submarine battle against another submarine? Even a real air to air engagement against an adversary with at least some semblance of peer capabilities?

        Meaning there will always be uncertainty with respect to any system being fully proven, until it’s tested in real battle.

        If we let lack of “proof” stop every technological advancement, we’d still be paddling dugout canoes and launching spears at our enemies.

        • El Kabong

          ” “Proven” comes only with time and operations…”?

          So, the builders tests, Operational Testing units…Developmental Testing units….

          Those organizations exist for WHAT, exactly?

      • Marty Tarver

        How would you like to be on a ship in the middle of a battle when the technology is disproven? Fine time to find out…

        • Rocco

          The ship doesn’t go into harm’s way until it’s ready. If we don’t try new things we’d still have wooden ship’s!!!

          • DaSaint

            Completely agree, which was my point in an earlier post!

        • Duane

          That’s always a possibility with any new ship design. Trial by fire – the ultimate test, and the crew are betting their lives on it.

          There’s no other way to absolutely demonstrate any change in war materiel. Always has been, always will be. Everything else is just a simulation.

          Even if there is no change in technology or design, the first time a specific ship and crew go into battle is also the ultimate test. Nobody knows how they and their shipmates and their ship will perform in battle until they’ve experienced battle.

    • Rocco

      Agreed!! That’s because Trump tweets before he thinks , then open’s his big mouth.

    • DaSaint

      It happens. Sail vs. Steam. Gas vs. Electricity. Horse vs. ‘horseless carriage’. Straight deck vs. Angled deck. Wooden deck vs. steel deck carriers. Steam vs. Gas Turbines.

      Fortunately, progress does happen, and we persevere beyond the naysayers.

      Will we at least review the possible benefits of the latest British innovation, the 2 island carrier? Or when do we begin to allow ourselves to think ‘beyond’ the CVN?

      • Rocco

        That’s the stupidest idea ever & a waste to have 2 islands especially on a carrier that size!!! Not I our life time is this gonna happen on our side of the pond!!! They’ll be lucky if they can get the ship deployed.

        • El Kabong

          And your vast expertise in naval architecture is….?

        • DaSaint

          Rocco, let me share with you some more of the ‘stupidest’ ideas that have stuck:

          The Ironclad
          Turreted guns (you know, like only 2 on a warship)
          Taking off and landing aircraft on a ship
          The idea of the aircraft carrier replacing the battleship (where are they now?)
          The angled flight deck
          The armored flight deck (you know, too heavy…the carrier will capsize in a tight turn)
          Harnessing nuclear propulsion for a submarine
          Launching missiles from a submerged submarine
          Replacing a submarine’s propeller with a propulsor
          Separating and staggering engine rooms

          Now I’m not saying that I’m embracing the concept just yet, but it may have some merit. And those of us who allow ourselves to think out of the box, eventually bring along those who don’t.

        • Duane

          I don’t know why the two-island design, but the HMS QE2 is designed for STO/VL. The fact that you don’t have high speed landings on the deck makes it such that either a larger island,or two islands, can be used without impinging on the deckspace needed to land aircraft vertically.

          It certainly looks odd, but I imagine there are good reasons to want more island space.

          It will get deployed, no doubt.

          • Bill

            I understand that each island contains an exhaust stack and they wanted to separate the two power plants for operational reasons. I can’t say if that’s the true reason, but someone on another message board mentioned it.

          • El_Sid

            the HMS QE2 is designed for STO/VL

            It’s simply HMS, never “the” HMS (think about what HMS stands for).

            It’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, not HMS Queen Elizabeth 2 – like the WWI battleship she’s named after the Tudor queen as we don”t generally name ships after living people. But it’s not a coincidence that her name is so close to the current Queen….

            The British don’t do STO/VL, they do V/STOL. SRVL rolling landings will be a common way to increase bring-back weights, the USMC are stealing the idea from the FAA.

            I imagine there are good reasons to want more island space.

            It’s partly a result of modelling that shows that the way to mission-kill a carrier is to go for the island. If you duplicate systems everywhere else for resilience, why not the islands? There’s minor benefits in having the main bridge for’ard (easier to see what’s happening when coming alongside etc) and ATC aft, and as has been mentioned, it’s partly to do with the way the propulsion is arranged but it’s also about having back-up for key functions in the “other” island.

            It will get deployed, no doubt.

            I saw QNLZ last week several hundred miles from the yard that built her, she’s still in early sea trials but she’s definitely on her way!

          • Duane

            Thanks for your clarifications and input on the two island design.

    • Spencer Whitson

      I’d hasten to point out that often there are indeed substantial problems with new technology when it’s brand new. Does that mean that detractors, especially uneducated ones mimicking what they’ve heard elsewhere, are right? Well, they’re both right and wrong. Yes, issues exist, but once they are worked past, there tends to be a superior end result.

      • Duane

        No human advance comes without problems to overcome, failures to learn from. Always, without exception.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Well, seeing how she is now officially part of the fleet, BUT won’t be actually deployed for at least 4 years from now, they’re will be no excuses for NOT fixing all that is presently not up to snuff.

  • muzzleloader

    Great news on the fix, but 3 years to the Fords first deployment? Egads.

    • USNVO

      Not unusual for a first of a kind ship with lots of new systems. For reference, the GHW BUSH was commissioned in JAN2009 and did not deploy until MAY2011 (2yrs 4 months) and the only new system on her was the freshwater flush toilets. Throw in all the at-sea system testing for all the new systems (EMALS/AAG, the new reactors, new island, the new ordnance elevators, new aircraft elevators, new radars, new combat system, etc., all of which require far more testing than just the certification work done on the BUSH) as well as a probable longer PSA since it is the lead ship and 3 years is probably pushing it. Someone said during the commissioning ceremony that the ship was scheduled to be underway 110 days in the next six months, it is not like they are slacking off.

      • Duane

        Yup. Even beyond that, the entire system used for moving aircraft and stores both below deck and up on deck was completely redesigned to significantly improve throughput and speed aircraft handling. The officers and crew literally have to “write the book” on how to operate a Ford class carrier. To get the crew, including air wing, operating at full efficiency while working out the inevitable bugs will take some time.

        Heck, even just a regular major overhaul for a Nimitz class carrier typically results in many months (over a year) of shakedown, post-shakedown, and crew training to get it ready for a deployment. For example, the USS Nimitz completed a refueling overhaul in November, 2001, but was not fully ready for its first deployment thereafter until March of 2003. And that’s for a vessel that was 28 years old going on its 10th deployment, with 8 other Nimitz class vessels in operation and decades of experience on its systems.

      • Rocco

        The Bush has a lot more than just the new flush toilets than the 9 previous Nimitz class carriers.

        • USNVO

          True, there are always upgrades to systems but the only radical change was the toilets which is actually a pretty significant upgrade. Notice the massive learning curve the ship had which closely matches the experience of the surface navy going back to the 70s. But,
          – Did the Bush have a new hull? No, same as every one since the LINCOLN.
          – New Reactors? Nope, same as all 10 ships in the class.
          – New electrical system? No, nope same as before
          – New all electrical auxillaries? Nope, still steam.
          – New Radars? Nope, same as the latest ships of the class.
          – New combat system? Well, they had the same upgrade planned for the entire class. The version on the FORD has entirely new sensors feeding it as well as different illumination for the ESSMS.
          – New Island in a new location? Nope
          – AAG? EMALS? Ordnance elevators? Aircraft elevators? Nope, Nope, Nope, and Nope. All the same as before.

          Sure, the BUSH had some new systems and the latest and greatest upgrades planned for the NIMITZ class, but pray tell, what totally new systems did the BUSH have that made it so different than its predecessors?