Navy validates software fix for EMALS

By Lee Hudson  
July 25, 2017 at 12:32 PM

The Navy recently validated a software fix for the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, despite negative comments about the program from President Trump.

Following a review in April 2014 of aircraft instrumentation data, a problem was discovered after testing. The testers found holdback release dynamics exceeded current fleet allowances during launches of these aircraft configured with wing-mounted external fuel tanks.

"We were confident since the day that the issue was uncovered that it was solvable," EMALS integrated program team lead George Sulich said in a July 24 statement.

The final step of testing the fix with instrumented aircraft launches was delayed a year because of competing test priorities, according to a service statement.

"The subsequent software will be incorporated on board CVN-78 to support shipboard launches of F/A-18s with EFTs in 2019, following the ship's Post Shakedown Availability," the statement reads.

EMALS is a launching system that uses a moving electromagnetic field to propel aircraft to launch speed, and is one of the many new technologies planned for the Navy's Ford-class aircraft carrier fleet.

EMALS came under scrutiny after President Trump told Time magazine that while he was aboard the Ford during a March visit he received a negative report on the system.

"Ah, how is it working?" Trump said he asked of the new system, which uses electromagnetics, rather than steam, to propel aircraft from the ship. The reply from an unidentified person, according to Trump: '"Sir, not good. Not good. Doesn't have the power. You know the steam is just brutal. You see that sucker going and steam's going all over the place, there's planes thrown in the air.'"

"It sounded bad to me," Trump told Time. "Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it's very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said, and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said what system are you going to be, 'Sir, we're staying with digital.' I said no you're not. You [sic] going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it's no good."

But according to Navy budget documents, the service plans to spend $579.8 million in FY-18 to put EMALS on the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).

"Benefits over the current C13 steam catapults include reduced weight and volume, greater launching flexibility for future aircraft, improved control, and reduced manning workload requirements," the documents note.

The service found EMALS would reduce both the number of maintenance requirements and size of the crew on the carrier, according to the Navy.

The Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the first aircraft carrier outifitted with EMALS. The ship was commissioned July 22.

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