U.S. Navy tests electromagnetic catapult for aircraft

The U.S. Navy is developing a faster, more efficient way to get aircraft off of ships and into the sky. Aircraft carrier vessels have exceedingly short runways. Pilots need a great deal of skill to takeoff from the narrow decks, and they usually get some help from the runway crew to ensure that the plane has enough speed to achieve flight. The best way to get a plane off the deck without hitting the sea involves a launch catapult. The Navy is going beyond the catapults in standard use to create an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).

Until the EMALS is adopted, the current method of launching aircraft from aircraft carrier ships involves steam-powered pneumatic catapults. These catapults cannot launch as quickly as EMALS because the steam pressure takes time to amass. Another benefit of using the EMALS is that it can launch a variety of aircraft without any reconfiguring between launches.

This isn't the first naval experiment to utilize electromagnets. The U.S. Navy created a powerful electromagnetic railgun

Now that the catapult is mounted on a ship, the Navy is fine-tuning the catapult and putting it through an array of safety tests. Pictured below is a "dead-load" test.

Watch the electromagnetic catapult hurl a weighted sled off the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier into the James River. (Don't worry, the sled is recovered afterwards for more test launches.)

Source: Popular Science