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The Navy's Next-Gen Electromagnetic Catapult System Hurls its First Planes Skyward


The official performance results aren’t available yet, but General Atomics confirmed this afternoon that it’s next-gen aircraft carrier launch system successfully launched an F/A-18E Super Hornet on Saturday, not with steam but with its new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS. Rather than charging up a steam catapult to hurl aircraft down a flight deck and into the air, EMALS is supposed to enable future carriers to launch a wider variety of aircraft more rapidly from their decks using electromagnetic force.

The technology is a critical piece of the Navy’s next-generation carrier design and is expected to be integrated into the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford – now under construction – but equipment malfunctions and cost overruns cast some doubt on whether the system would be operational in time for its scheduled delivery to the U.S.S. Ford in May of 2011. This weekend’s test should allay some of those fears.

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