Thursday, December 09, 2010

EMALS Hopes for First Shot Before Christmas

BY ADMIN :The first launch of an aircraft by the U.S. Navy's new electro-magnetic launch system could take place by mid-December, an event that would mark a major step ahead for a program with its full share of critics and doubters.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet set for takeoff from a carrier's steam catapult. A similar aircraft will make the first launch from a new electromagnetic launch system. (Lt. Reann Mommsen / U.S. Navy)
"The shot should take place within a couple of weeks," said Rob Koon, a spokesman for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Asked if the engineers were trying to make the launch before Christmas, Koon replied, "that's what they're hoping for."
The Electro-magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is a critical piece of technology that will be installed in the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, the first of which is now under construction. If the system isn't ready in time, the Navy would have to revert to older steam catapults to launch aircraft from the ships, a move that would mean costly delays and redesigns.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet strike fighter is now being instrumented for the launch, Koon said. Test data is being analyzed for safety issues to obtain the necessary flight clearances.
The launch will take place at NAVAIR's facility at the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, N.J., where the service and prime contractor General Atomics have built a full-scale test site replicating a shipboard installation, including major software and hardware components.
The development team began shooting test "dead-loads" from the system in the spring, Koon said. Since then, 722 dead-load launches have been made at speeds of up to 180 knots, the highest end-speed requirement for the system. The launch tests are part of the program's system functional demonstration phase.
If the Super Hornet launch is successful, other types of carrier aircraft will be tested next year, including C-2 carrier-on-board-delivery planes and T-45 Goshawk jet trainers.
Koon said the EMALS program remains on track to deliver its first components to the new aircraft carrier in 2011.
The EMALS system would be the first new launch system since the Navy replaced hydraulic catapults with steam-powered systems in the 1950s. An electro-magnetic system has numerous advantages over steam. EMALS, which involves energizing a series of electro-magnets, is less stressful on aircraft and can launch a wider range of aircraft. The new system also would, theoretically, need less maintenance and cost less to operate.
The efficacy of the EMALS technology and particularly its test program has long been a question for the Navy, Congress and industry. The program - like nearly all technology development programs - has had its share of setbacks, but the service and General Atomics continue to insist the new system will be ready in time for installation on the Gerald R. Ford.
General Atomics made something of a statement of confidence on July 13, when it agreed to a $676.2 million fixed-price contract to produce the EMALS system and a new advanced arresting gear installation for the carrier.
But nothing will quiet critics like the launch of a front-line jet fighter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

no offensive and abusive language please