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U.S. Navy's electromagnetic catapult launches first manned aircraft

Stargazer2006

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Navy's electromagnetic catapult launches first manned aircraft at Lakehurst
Navy launches manned aircraft with new system

BY KIRK MOORE • STAFF WRITER • DECEMBER 21, 2010
ASBURY PARK PRESS


LAKEHURST — The first live aircraft launch using the Navy's electromagnetic catapult was a success when an F/A-18E Super Hornet thundered off the test site here Tuesday, Navy officials said.
First envisioned in the 1980s, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System got major funding in 2004 and the $573 million full-scale program began experiments with rolling test vehicles a year ago. Tuesday's launch was the first of a manned aircraft, flown by Lt. Daniel Radocaj, a test pilot from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 at the Navy's Patuxent River, Md., Naval Air Systems Command test center.
"The catapult stroke felt similar to a steam catapult, and EMALS met all of the expectations I had," Radocaj was quoted in a statement issued by Navy officials.
Steam pistons have powered catapults on the Navy's aircraft carriers for 50 years, and will remain a backbone of carrier operations for decades to come. But starting with the next new aircraft carrier CVN 78, to be named the USS Gerald Ford, the Navy will use the EMALS system as part of its drive to reduce maintenance and personnel costs in the long term.
Linear electromagnetic motors are at the heart of the EMALS system, with controls that allow operators to fine-tune the energy to match acceleration and takeoff speeds for different aircraft types.
That will reduce wear and tear on aircraft, while the EMALS system itself will require much less maintenance and spare parts, and fewer people to keep it running, Lakehurst engineers say. Farther out, they are working on applying electromagnetic forces to the receiving end of carrier flight decks — to power the brakes on arresting gear cables that snag landing aircraft and bring them to a halt.
Tuesday's launch showed that EMALS will work, said Kathleen Donnelly, director for the Navy's Support Equipment and Aircraft Launch and Recovery group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. "Now we'll work toward answering the question will EMALS be reliable?" she said in a statement. "That answer will also be a resounding "yes.' "
The test program is expected to continue this winter using F/A-18E aircraft, before the program adds a T-45 Goshawk trainer and a C-2 Greyhound cargo aircraft next year, said Thomas Worsdale, a Naval Air Systems spokesman.

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Source: http://www.navair.navy.mil/lakehurst/nlweb/pao/InTheNews/2010-12-21_Navy%27s_electromagnetic_catapult_launches.pdf
 

Stargazer2006

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And an interesting press release on the subject:

Navy launches first aircraft using EMALS

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Navy made history Saturday when it launched the first aircraft from the Naval Air Systems Command, Lakehurst, N.J., test site using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, technology.
The Navy has been using steam for more than 50 years to launch aircraft from carriers. Saturday, the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) program launched an F/A-18E Super Hornet using the EMALS technology that will replace steam catapults on future aircraft carriers.
“This is a tremendous achievement not just for the ALRE team, but for the entire Navy,” said Capt. James Donnelly, ALRE 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 Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and future Ford-class carriers.
“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.”
The current aircraft launch system for Navy aircraft carriers is the steam catapult. Newer, heavier and faster aircraft will result in launch energy requirements approaching the limits of the steam catapult system.
The mission and function of EMALS remain the same as the steam catapult; however, EMALS employs entirely different technologies. EMALS will deliver the necessary higher launch energy capacity as well as substantial improvements in system weight, maintenance, increased efficiency, and more accurate end-speed control.
“I felt honored to be chosen as the Shooter to help launch the first live aircraft tested on the new EMALS track at Lakehurst,” said Chief Petty Officer Brandon Barr, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Test Department, Lakehurst. “It was very exciting to knowingly be a part of naval aviation history. Petty Officers 1st Class Hunsaker and Robinson, Petty Officers 2nd Class Williams, Wong, and Simmons, were the sailors on my team who worked together to help make this test a success. We all look forward to seeing this cutting edge technology deployed on the Gerald R. Ford."
“I’m excited about the improvement EMALS will bring to the fleet from a capability and reliability perspective,” said Cmdr. Russ McCormack, ALRE, PMA-251, deputy program manager for future systems. “EMALS was designed for just that purpose, and the team is delivering that requirement.”
According to Ms. Kathleen Donnelly, Director for Support Equipment and Aircraft Launch and Recovery at Lakehurst, “today we answered the question - will EMALS work? Now we'll work toward answering the question - will EMALS be reliable?" That answer will also be a resounding "yes".
The system’s technology allows for a smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds, increasing the carrier’s ability to launch aircraft in support of the warfighter.
The system will provide the capability for launching all current and future carrier air wing platforms – lightweight unmanned to heavy strike fighters.
Engineers will continue system functional demonstration testing at NAVAIR Lakehurst. The team will expand aircraft launches with the addition of T-45 and C-2 aircraft next year.

http://www.navair.navy.mil/lakehurst/nlweb/PAO/PressReleases/2010-12-21_Navy_Launches_Aircraft_Using_EMALS.pdf
 

Nik

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Well, I'm impressed: I'd begun to doubt if the linear motor would fly...

And it can be 'tuned' ?? Sounds like it might do for UAVs, too...
 

Steve Pace

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Here's lift-off. -SP
 

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TomS

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Matej said:
So this is different approach to the electromagnetic catapult than that preffered by MiG in the mid 80s.

If you're talking about the pics you posted here of a runway with what appear to be electromagnets embedded in the surface and presumably acting directly on the aircraft airframe, then yes, totally different mechanism. In EMALS, the electromagnets act on the catapult sled, with the aircraft interface remaining the same as in current steam catapults.

The "direct-acting" concept would seem to be very problematic -- much more power required, acting over longer distances, and with far more potential to muck about with aircraft and flight deck electronics. I would guess that it would in fact be impossible to make work in practice.
 

Trident

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Yes, the USN approach is far more practical. One of the most important innovations in naval aviation in a long time IMHO, so I hope it succeeds!
 

Matej

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The articles are talking about the reduced maintenance and personnel costs. What about the energy requirements of the new system?
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a349709.pdf
 

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