The Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard in Newport News, Virginia is all abuzz as below deck-testing of the US Navy’s newest aircraft launch system begins aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
Following months of large-scale hardware deliveries containing critical components of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and shipboard installation by HII, teams from the government and industry partner General Atomics completed installation of the software — the brains of the new system. Below deck-testing began Aug. 11 with the Launch Control Subsystem, the first of many subsystem assessments on the path toward EMALS shipboard certification.
“The complex array of interconnected subsystems internal to the ship is what essentially powers and controls the launches, so it’s a pivotal point in the process of supplanting the steam-powered catapults currently in use with the powerful and efficient electromagnetic technology,” said George Sulich, EMALS integrated product team lead who has been with the program since its inception in 1999.
With six intricate subsystems providing the capability to launch all current and future planned carrier wing platforms from catapults on the carrier’s flight deck, the combined shipbuilder, government and industry EMALS team is preparing for dead-load launches from the ship in late 2015. Manned aircraft launches will follow CVN 78’s scheduled delivery in spring 2016. The remaining EMALS top-deck components are arriving weekly, bringing EMALS closer to completion of delivery.
“This leading-edge system will be an integral part of our carriers for many years to come, so we are literally watching Navy history as it happens,” said Capt. Jim Donnelly, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) program manager, whose office manages the EMALS program.
EMALS is a complete carrier-based launch system, designed to expand the operational capability of the Navy’s future carriers to include all current and future planned carrier aircraft – from lightweight unmanned to heavy strike fighters. It delivers necessary higher-launch energy capacity, substantial improvements in system maintenance, increased reliability and efficiency, and more accurate end-speed control with a smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds.