The Navy awarded
General Atomics a $18.9 million delivery order to provide engineering and diagnostics support for the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). The deal includes test and evaluation effort for EMALS
test site operations, Failure Reporting Analysis and Corrective Actions System, prototype and testing, environmental qualification testing and remediation, electromagnetic interference testing, and training efforts. The EMALS is a type of aircraft launching system designed to replace the steam catapult systems currently used on the Navy aircraft carriers. The USS Gerald R. Ford
is the first carrier to use EMALS. John F. Kennedy and Enterprise
are also scheduled to install and use EMALS. EMALS can launch a wide variety of aircraft weights and can be used on a variety of platforms with differing catapult configurations. Work will take place in New Jersey, Mississippi, and California and is expected to be finished in January 2021.
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.