Friday, February 8, 2019
Built by General Atomics of Predator fame. Per Wikipedia EMALS accelerates aircraft smoothly, putting less stress on airframes than steam catapults. The "EMALS also weighs less, is expected to cost less and require less maintenance, and can launch both heavier and lighter aircraft than a steam piston-driven system. It also reduces the carrier's requirement of fresh water, thus reducing the demand for energy-intensive desalination." But there have been major reliability issues with EMALS. That despite the Wiki hype, which maybe was taken from a General Atomics brochure? ComNavOps' blog "NavyMatters" back a year ago debunked several of those claims. And Commander-in-Chief Bonespurs thinks we should go back to steam power.
The Ford has just come back from her shakedown cruise. Perhaps we'll soon know whether it worked satisfactorily?
If so I would hope it is also quieter and generates less heat than steam catapults. I spent many months of an extended cruise bunking in quarters directly below the steam catapult of the USS Coral Sea back in 79. I was constantly deafened plus steamed, poached, and parboiled when trying to sack out during flight operations. And with the extra speed from an EMALS launch I assume you would get fewer aircraft going in the drink because of not getting enough speed off the deck and no lift. If of course they address all the previous reliability issues. And perhaps with this system you don't need to be sailing at 30 knots into the wind in order to launch?
So I wish the Navy and General Atomics well in working out the bugs. Not just because of the high heat and noise I was treated to, but also because of the high failure rate of steam catapults. They are multi-technology systems requiring hydraulics and electric as well as steam. And they are hard to maintain also. Nimitz Class carriers have four steam catapults just to ensure one is always working: quadruple backup.