HII Trials Electromagnetic Launch System on US Navy’s Future JFK Aircraft Carrier

HII segment Newport News Shipbuilding has started testing the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) on the US Navy’s upcoming Ford-class aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).

Developed by General Atomics, the EMALS is used to deploy an aerial vehicle from a ship’s deck and replaces the traditional steam catapults installed on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Initially demonstrated with a “no-load” setup, the EMALS will now undertake a “dead-load” phase that will include a wheeled, car-like system weighing up to 80,000 pounds (36,300 kilograms) to replicate an actual military jet.

Launch trials are now being conducted from the Kennedy’s bow into the James River in Virginia.

After takeoff, the wheeled platform will be retrieved and relaunched. HII explained that this process will be repeated until the end of the program to ensure the EMALS meets the expected operability for the navy’s fixed-wing aircraft.

Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System

The EMALS covers 300 feet (91 meters) of catapult track on a vessel’s deck and propels aircraft at speeds over 150 miles (241 kilometers) per hour.

According to HII, the launch capability’s utility offers accurate end-speed control, amplified launch-energy capacity, and reduced costs.

Moreover, it features smoother acceleration at both high and low speeds and reduced stress on the aerial vehicle compared to older steam catapults that deploy with sudden acceleration.

John F. Kennedy CVN 79 Dead Load Testing. Photo: HII
John F. Kennedy CVN 79 Dead Load Testing. Photo: HII

“The first dead-load launch off the flight deck is a historic moment for [Pre-Commissioning Unit] John F. Kennedy, and a testament to the power of great teamwork between our JFK crew, HII team, and NAVAIR engineers,” US Navy CVN 79 Commanding Officer Capt. Colin Day stated.

“I’m particularly proud of our Air Department and the hard-working Aviation Boatswain Mates who worked tirelessly alongside the engineering and testing teams to get us to this critical moment.”

Support From Shipbuilder Families

HII highlighted that the first wheeled systems to kick off the dead-load phase carried encouraging written messages from employees’ families during the shipyard’s Family Day ceremony last October.

“As we make sustained progress in the construction, testing and turnover of John F. Kennedy, reaching the dead load testing phase is a visual demonstration of how far we’ve come,” Newport News Shipbuilding New Construction Aircraft Carriers VP Lucas Hicks said.

“It is evident from the thousands of written messages that our shipbuilders and their families appreciate and understand the significance of our work.”

“We are proud of the incredible teamwork that has brought us to this point, and remain committed to delivering this mighty aircraft carrier to the fleet so the crew can carry out the important mission ahead.”

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