The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers have used the same steam propulsion technology to launch airplanes into the Wild Blue Yonder – since the 1950s:
“Following World War II, the Royal Navy was developing a new catapult system for their fleet of carriers. Commander Colin C. Mitchell, RNV, recommended a steam-based system as an effective and efficient means to launch the next generation of naval aircraft.
“Trials on HMS Perseus…from 1950 showed its effectiveness. Navies introduced steam catapults, capable of launching the heavier jet fighters, in the mid-1950s….
“Nations that have retained large aircraft carriers, i.e., the United States Navy, French Navy, are still using a CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) configuration.”
Surely we’ve created a more effective, efficient system in the intervening six decades…?
We have? Well let’s update, shall we?
“The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is a type of aircraft launching system developed…for the United States Navy.
“The system launches carrier-based aircraft by means of a catapult employing a linear induction motor rather than the conventional steam piston.
“EMALS was first installed on the United States Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford.”
Did the USS Ford’s EMALS have problems at the outset? It did indeed.
But we can take solace:
In the history of each and every thing that has worked – there was a time when each and every one of them didn’t work.
President Donald Trump – used to think the switch to EMALS was a bad idea.
But Trump is always looking for the best deal. And the best information – to know what the best deal is. Last Thanksgiving, while placing calls giving thanks to members of our military,….
“Capt. Pat Hannifin, Reagan’s commanding officer,…(said) ‘Yes sir, all of our Nimitz supercarriers have been using steam for decades, and we find pretty reliable. However the electromagnetic catapults they’re running there offer some great benefits….’
“‘So when you do the new carriers as you do and we’re thinking of doing, would you go steam or would you go with the electromagnetic?’ Trump asked….
“‘Sir, Mr. President I would go electro-magnetic cats, I think that’s the way to go, we do pay a heavy cost to transit the steam around the ship.”
“‘Good, OK, I like to hear that,’ Trump responded. ‘I’m actually happy about that answer because at least they’re doing what they’re doing, but that’s actually a very good answer.’”
In January, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer discussed the new tech with President Trump:
“‘During the…Army-Navy football game, I spent some time with the President and we talked about EMALS. He said, should we go back to steam? I said, well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS, we got the bugs out. But what you really have to understand is the aperture of EMALS,’ Spencer said at the CNAS event.
“‘It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space – it’s all to our advantage’ with EMALS.”
The EMALS bugs – are debugged. The kinks – are unkinked:
“A software fix for the U.S. Navy’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) has been validated by the service at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, early this summer….
“(A)according to NAVAIR news release a total of 71 EMALS launches were conducted by the EMALS Team and the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 to confirm F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler outfitted with wing-mounted, 480-gallon external fuel tanks (EFTs) can launch without exceeding stress limits on the aircraft.
“The post-test review of aircraft instrumentation data, following the manned aircraft testing, indicates that software control algorithm updates have corrected the issue.”
And this is very good news. For naval efficiency – and thereby national security:
“The new A1B reactor, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and Dual Band Radar (DBR) all offer enhanced capability with reduced manning.
“The Gerald R. Ford-class is designed to maximize the striking power of the embarked carrier air wing.
“The ship’s systems and configuration are optimized to maximize the sortie generation rate (SGR) of attached strike aircraft, resulting in a 33 percent increase in SGR over the Nimitz- class.
“The ship’s configuration and electrical generating plant are designed to accommodate new systems, including direct energy weapons, during its 50-year service life.”
I never served – so I do not speak Military. But I utilized my Military-to-Civilian Dictionary – and the above means:
The EMALS allows for 33% more plane launches.
It allows for and accommodates upgrades in attending weapons and other systems. Including – critically – allowing the carriers to launch drones. Which, believe it or not, none of the current carriers are capable of doing. Which helps everyone everywhere – in harm’s way, and then some.
But wait – there’s more:
“Without the need to produce steam, the Ford-class reactor design is smaller and more efficient than reactors on earlier nuclear aircraft carriers.
“The Ford-class propulsion system generates three-times as much electricity as what is generated by the Nimitz-class carriers, according to the Navy.”
And it does all of this – with MUCH less required manpower.
In no small part because the new system – doesn’t require nearly so much many-hands-on maintenance.
Which means we can re-purpose our brave men and women – to other things:
“(T)he Gerald R Ford class will be larger than its predecessor, the Nimitz-class, but will have between 500 and 900 fewer crew members.
“The manpower reduction was a key performance parameter added to the original four outlined in 2000 in the operational requirements document for the CVN 21 programme.
“It is estimated that the new carrier technologies will lead to a 30% reduction in maintenance requirements and a further crew workload reduction will be achieved through higher levels of automation.”
You know who else thinks the EMALS is a good idea? Communist China.
You know Communist China. They’re the nation with which – in the very near future – we may very well be at war.
“Ma Weiming, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is the brain behind China’s technological leap forward into electromagnetic catapults….”
Though I would bet large coin Communist China actually pilfered the tech from US. Because that’s what Communist China does.
So, if Communist China is going to have it….
And most likely have it – because we had it and they stole it….
We should use it too.
I don’t want Communist China using (likely our) tech to launch many more fighter jets much more efficiently – and our not doing so.
Because that would be decidedly bad.
For about a million different reasons.