The U.S. Navy's next-generation electromagnetic catapult performed its first ever live aircraft launch on Saturday when an F/A-18E Super Hornet was shot from the system at the Navy's Lakehurst Air Engineering Station in New Jersey.
This marks the first time that a Navy plane has been launched by anything other than a steam catapult in over half a century.
“Today we answered the question - will EMALS work," said Kathleen Donnelly, Director for Support Equipment and Aircraft Launch and Recovery at Lakehurst. "Now we'll work toward answering the question, will EMALS be reliable?"
The California-based General Atomics makes the electromagnetic launch system (EMALS) being developed for the upcoming Gerald Ford class of U.S. supercarriers.
The Navy and General Atomics are now expected to plan similar launch tests using everything from portly, prop-driven C-2 Carrier Onboard Delivery plane to the T-45 Goshawk trainer. General Atomics, who recently signed a $676.2 million fixed-price contract to build the system, expects to begin delivery of EMALS parts for the U.S.S. Gerald Ford in 2011.
While EMALS has not been without its problems, electromagnetic catapults can have their power more easily adjusted to launch a wider range of aircraft (including smaller UAVs), take up far less room below deck and be less maintenance intensive than steam catapults.