Acting Secretary of the US Navy (USN) Sean Stackley has revealed
that there are issues concerning the General Atomics-built Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS
) when launching F/A-18 aircraft that are loaded with fuel tanks. Stakley told a congressional hearing on June 16 that vibrations were detected when fuel tanks were attached to Super Hornets, "so now what they're doing is going back through the software and adjusting the system to remove that vibration." Installed onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carries, EMALS is intended to enable a higher degree of computer control, more accurate end-speed control, and smoother acceleration when launching carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft, and is also intended to adapt to future carrier air-wing platforms, such as lightweight unmanned systems or future heavy strike aircraft.
Current steam catapult technology is very entertaining when it launches cars more than 100 feet off of a ship, or gives naval fighters the extra boost they need to achieve flight speed within a launch footprint of a few hundred feet. It’s also stressful for the aircraft involved, very maintenance intensive, and not really compatible with modern gas turbine propulsion systems. At present, however, steam is the only option for launching supersonic jet fighters from carrier decks. EMALS aims to leap beyond steam’s limitations, delivering significant efficiency savings, a more survivable system, and improved effectiveness. This free-to-view spotlight article covers the technology, the program, and its progress to date.