EMALS works! Carrier Ford completes first flight operations

Mark D. Faram

Navy officials wasted no time putting the newly commissioned aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and her new flight deck technology to the test — putting fears to rest about the ship’s new high-tech gear’s performance.

The ship left Norfolk Friday and, off the Virginia coast, conducted the ship’s first arrested aircraft landing or “trap,” followed 87 minutes later by the the first ever catapult-shot launch according to a Friday night release from Naval Air Forces Atlantic.

Not only were the milestones the ship’s first fixed-wing flight operations at sea, it was also the first shipboard test of the two new flight deck systems, the Advanced Arresting Gear, known as AAG and Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS.

Both systems had been plagued with difficulties in development. But by the end of the afternoon, the ship had accomplished four successful arrested landings and catapult shots. 

“Today, USS Gerald R. Ford made history with the successful landing and launching of aircraft from VX-23 using the AAG and EMALS,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said in the release.

“Great work by the Ford team and all the engineers who have worked hard to get the ship ready for this milestone.

The EMALS and AAG technology uses a surge of electromagnetic energy to power the catapult and landing systems, replacing the steam-piston-powered system used by the legacy Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Navy officials say the electromagnetic technology will be easier to maintain for sailors aboard the ship and  will provide a smoother acceleration for launch that will put less stress on aircraft air frames.

The system was criticized earlier this hear by President Donald Trump, who said the new technology was ”no good” and the Navy should return to ”goddamnn steam.”

The pilot who conducted the test was Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Struck of Tallmedge, Ohio, and his F/A-18F Super Hornet from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River-based Air Test and Evaluation 23. Tallmedge caught the number 2 arresting wire of Ford’s advanced arresting gear system, and was launched from catapult 1 using the electromagnetic launch system.

“AAG and EMALS have been successfully tested ashore at Lakehurst, New Jersey, but this is the first shipboard recovery and launch of a fleet fixed wing aircraft,” said Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer.

“My team has worked closely with industry, Naval Air Systems Command, and the flight test community to make this historic event in Naval aviation happen. I am very proud of my crew.”



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