The Navy is also developing cool new technology to give Uncle Sam the edge in fighting the bad guys. The most recent “wow” item to come across my desk via Popular Mechanics is the Navy’s new catapult system. It’s called the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and it’s a “fully electric, magnetically-powered way of launching fighter jets and drones off an aircraft carrier and into the sky,” writes Eric Limer. I’m no engineer, but it sounds like it works on the same sci-fi weaponry principle as the Navy’s Hyper Velocity Projectile for railguns that we saw demonstrated back in May.
Yesterday EMALS was tested yesterday with a huge, four-ton sled on the USS Gerald Ford while ported in Newport News. The test wasn’t a complete success, but the Navy Times has a good outline of why this catapult is being implemented on aircraft carriers:
The EMALS catapult replaced the steam-powered catapult system, and has had its share of problems. By the time aircraft compatibility tests ended in April 2014, and more than 3,000 dead-load launches were added to the mix, EMALS had a reliability rate of 240 launches without failure. That was far short of the 1,250 launches the system should have been hitting at that point.
EMALS is expected to reduce stress on aircraft during takeoff, thus expanding their service lives. It is designed to increase the sortie generation rate by as much as 25 percent and can launch a wider variety of weights in varying wind conditions. This includes lightweight, unmanned aerial vehicles that cannot be launched with a steam catapult.
Whatever gets those birds of freedom in the air quick and safe. The most amazing thing of the whole test is that it threw the sled with so much thrust that it literally skipped like a stone across the water. That’s so badass. Here’s a gif via Popular Mechanics: