Story 2015-03-31 64A2 US Navy testing electromagnetic catapult on aircraft carrier

US Navy testing electromagnetic catapult on aircraft carrier

by
in hardware on (#64A2)
story imageFor almost as long as aircraft carriers have existed, they’ve been equipped with steam-powered catapults to help fighters and bombers get airborne. That’s a remarkably old-fashioned technology when you’re launching stealth fighters that cost upwards of $20 million each. Aircraft carriers are gigantic, but the runways simply aren’t long enough for most planes to generate sufficient lift under their own power.

The US Navy is now testing a replacement system called the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) aboard the new USS Gerald R. Ford. It works by using an electric current to generate magnetic fields that propel a carriage down the track built into the runway, launching planes much more smoothly and efficiently than the old steam catapults with improved reliability. A steam catapult takes up a great deal of space and weigh in excess of 1,300 pounds. These systems take a long time to recharge after each launch, and the launch itself is rather abrupt. There’s no smooth acceleration with a steam piston, resulting in increase wear on the body of the aircraft. Steam catapults also use more power than the EMALS system.
Reply 10 comments

20 million for a stealth fighter? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-03-31 11:51 (#64RQ)

Even russian fighters cost more than that and without stealth capability :)

Re: 20 million for a stealth fighter? (Score: 1)

by kwerle@pipedot.org on 2015-03-31 14:47 (#6558)

Yeah, all the numbers in the article seem pretty bunk. The steam catapult weighs 1300 pounds? I don't think so. 20 seconds and wikipedia:
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System: System weight< 225,000 kg

Steam catapult: "These systems take a long time to recharge after each launch"
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System: Cycle time 45 seconds

How long does it take to get the next jet into position?

The combination of wikipedia and file:///tmp/Electronics-poised-to-replace-steam-powered-aircraft-launch-system.pdf (from '02) add up to a much better article than the one linked.

Re: 20 million for a stealth fighter? (Score: 2, Funny)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-03-31 15:08 (#656C)

file:///tmp/Electronics-poised-to-replace-steam-powered-aircraft-launch-system.pdf
Please give us access to your computer ;-)

Re: 20 million for a stealth fighter? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-03-31 21:06 (#65V2)

Oh hey, I just read it. Great article, thanks for the look around! ;)

false dichotomy (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-03 21:15 (#6CFB)

Steam catapults are a remarkably old technology for launching $20M aircraft into the air.

Screws/propellers are a remarkably old technology for propelling ships through the water. We still do that on even the newest multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier. We should stop.

Do I really need to go on?

Re: false dichotomy (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-05 12:50 (#6EVD)

Well, if the complaint about the steam catapult is (per the summary),
"There’s no smooth acceleration with a steam piston, resulting in increase wear on the body of the aircraft. "
Then perhaps the thing to do is look at introducing modern controls into the existing system. I'll bet there is a way to make a proportional steam valve and hook it to a micro controller, with some feedback about the position, velocity and acceleration of the sled... Aircraft carriers seem to have no shortage of steam at high pressures, so it might make sense to keep this as the catapult power source.

Re: false dichotomy (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-14 01:29 (#70A0)

What is so "old" than how power is generated?

"Fire" heats water makes stream that turns a turbine to make electric power.

Replace word "fire" with: Coal, Oil, Gas, Nuclear, Solar Furnace, Geo-Thermal, so 19th century!

So superheated stream driving the plunger is less efferent the electric-o-magnetic.

One conversion of energy, vs two? No loss there!

Simpler: (Score: 0)

by lmariachi@pipedot.org on 2015-04-07 05:32 (#6HTE)

Just put the carrier itself in the air and you can get rid of the catapults altogether.