Here's a quick update on the progress of the Navy's test program for its new electromagetic aircraft catapults, known as EMALS. Since the system's first successful launch of an aircraft (an F/A-18E Super Hornet) on Dec. 18, 2010, engineers have fired a T-45 Goshawk trainer, a C-2 Greyhound and, as of Sept. 27, an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye radar plane from the system.
The sea service plans to do about 63 to 65 EMALS shots for each type of aircraft at its test facility in Lakehurst, N.J., according to a NAVAIR press release on Tuesday's cat shot.
While EMALS had its share of development problems, its been moving along quite well over the last year, and if aircraft testing continues to go smoothly, General Atomics could begin shipping parts of the new catapults for installation on the USS Gerald R. Ford later this year.
(Click through the jump for a video of the successful cat shot):
These launches are a big deal since EMALS is the first new type of aircraft catapult fielded by the Navy since the advent of the steam catapult 50-years ago. They're set to equip both the U.S. Navy's brand new 100,000-ton Ford class carriers and the Royal Navy's two next-generation flattops of the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth class. The Royal Navy will apparently take delivery of the second EMALS shipset after the Ford receives her cats.
The electromagnetic system will take up far less space below decks than steam catapults and it will be far easier to adjust their power than the current system. This means that EMALS' power can be dialed up to launch a heavy aircraft like a C-2 and then dramatically lowered to launch a drone like the UCLASS which may not be able to handle the strains of launching from a steam catapult.