The future is here: EMALS launches F-35

The future is here: EMALS launches F-35

The twin pillars of tomorrow’s naval aviation both work, and they work together, the Navy says.

The Navy catapulted an F-35C into the air using its new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System for the first time on Nov. 18, the service announced Monday.  Although EMALS has thrown other Navy jets into the sky, the C’s takeoff proves that the service’s two big technological bets are paying off, its statement said.

And there are even bigger implications, per Naval Air Systems Command:

Testing the F-35C on EMALS provided an early opportunity to evaluate technical risks and began the process to integrate the carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter with the future carrier fleet aircraft launching system. “The test flight went well,” said Navy test pilot Lt. Christopher Tabert. “It felt very similar to the steam test launches we did this summer [in the F-35C]. It was quite an honor for me to play a small part in our launch today.”

This summer, the F-35C test team completed more than 50 steam catapult launches to perform an initial structural survey and collected steam ingestion data. The steam ingestion data produced robust results, allowing a reduction in the number of test launches by four. Along with the steam launch data, the EMALS launch testing also provided information for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence as the UK proceeds with including EMALS in the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier.

In the past 12 months, the EMALS team launched a T-45 Goshawk, an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, a C-2A Greyhound and several F/A-18 aircraft with and without stores.

That’s right: EMALS is the key to the future of aviation in not one, but two great navies — when the British switched their order from F-35Bs to Cs, they also became dependent on the success of the U.S. Navy’s electromagnetic catapults. In fact, you could argue the Royal Navy has an even greater need for EMALS, given that its Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers won’t be built with steam propulsion.

The first Navy carrier to get EMALS, the USS Gerald R. Ford, was not designed with the steam system it would need in case EMALS didn’t materialize — and this has caused no shortage of anxiety among carrier-watchers over the past few years. But in a worst case scenario, although it would’ve been painful and expensive, the Ford could have been modified to accept steam cats. Nuclear propulsion is steam propulsion anyway, so engineers could have more or less copied the configuration of the earlier Nimitz-class flattops.

The Queen Elizabeth, however, will use gas turbines, meaning there’s no steam aboard either for propulsion or for the flight deck. So if EMALS continues to work as advertised, that means the U.S. and the U.K. will be able to go forward with their existing designs.

Despite this milestone, however, neither program is free and clear. Washington and London could delay or even cancel the programs in the face of their respective defense crunches, and even if the ships survive, making EMALS work aboard and at sea could be a whole other set of hurdles to jump.

What’s that? Of course we have video of EMALS launching the F-35C — check it out over at DefenseTech.

UPDATE: We’d heard at the time that the first F-35C EMALS launch didn’t go initially as scheduled, but Navy spokesman Victor Chen told Buzz on Monday that there was nothing nefarious about the delay. Here’s what he said:

“Initial fit checks required a relatively simple adjustment to the launch bar, which was completed, but not in time to meet crew day requirements. Adverse weather then postponed the launch until the next possible day, Nov. 18. It’s important to note that JSF testing was not originally included in the aircraft compatibility test schedule for EMALS, but the testing of the F-35C presented an early opportunity to test both the aircraft and the launcher.”

Join the Conversation

Video was cool, but I must’a missed the tail-hook landing — mmm?

I guess they figured out how to make the launch bar the correct length on the second try. Just awesome. Maybe sometime in the next 10 years it will reach IOC?

Does this mean no more navy showers????

OORAH, Go Navy! Why do we need the “A” model?

Model A is for the Land Based Guys… Like the US Air Force, UK Royal Air Force, Canadain Air Force and the Aussies.


sure till the EMP hits then they cant launch any plains off the deck.

I agree, the Air Force should be gearing ALL of its fighters to have short field take off capabilities. It’s rediculus that the Air Force has to have all of these big runways to operate its fighters, I can understand operating the bombers, etc. All an enemy has to do is take out the runways and they effectively shut down the Air Force since it won’t be able to get its fighters off the ground. Yes hopefully the fighters would be airborne before that happened, but what if they didn’t? They should modify F-16s to be able to operate similar to the Gripens.

I am pretty sure our navy and airforce know a good tactical place to station them new “proud birds”!

In fact the shower time is now 2 minutes instead of regular 3,dont forget to wash behind those ears..

worked at Grumman for 44yrs seen many navy planes on the cat,if you put wings on a truck it also will get up but that is the beginning will it do the job for the Navy.…

Junk it! It is a taxpayer rip off.

Yep.…we might want to get really good with swords and shields too. Too dependent on technology

Nice to see that 1970s linear induction technology paying dividends for the US. The DOT’s high speed ground vehicle program did some of the research with good ole AiResearch Co of Torrance, CA. If Charlie Weinstein and Jerry Desena are still around, I hope they are smiling.

it looks like war proliferations to. Advances should be made civil purposes


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