Flight Deck Trials Justify Ford Skipper’s Confidence in Aircraft Launch and Recovery Systems
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — Capt. Rick McCormack, commanding officer of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, had predicted that the ship’s new-design aircraft launch and recovery would do well, and they are off to a good start.
On July 10, speaking to reporters during a media tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford in Norfolk, Va., McCormack predicted that within a month the carrier would make the first at-sea aircraft launches with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the first aircraft recoveries using the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).
“I’m very confident that EMALS is going to do everything we want it too,” McCormack said, during a July 10 media tour, noting that the carrier would be conducting its first non-vertical flight operations within 30 days. “I have utmost confidence that AAG will meet the demand.”
Less than a week after the carrier’s July 22 commissioning ceremonies, the new carrier was at sea for the first use of its systems in aircraft operations, and on July 28 an F/A-18 Super Hornet mad the carriers first “cats and traps.”
Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Struck, a test pilot with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23, made the carrier’s first arrested landing on the AAG’s No. 2 wire and then the carrier’s first catapult launch using the EMALS, according to a July 29 Navy release.
The EMALS and AAG, built by General Atomics, experienced delays in development and testing and factored in the two-year delay in delivery of the carrier to the Navy.
“The software-controlled AAG is a modular, integrated system that consists of energy absorbers, power conditioning equipment and digital controls, with architecture that provides built-in test and diagnostics, resulting in lower maintenance and manpower requirements,” the Navy release said. “AAG is designed to provide higher reliability and safety margins, as well as to allow for the arrestment of a greater range of aircraft and reduce the fatigue impact load to the aircraft.
“The mission and function of EMALS remains the same as the traditional steam catapult; however, it employs entirely different technologies,” the release said. “It delivers necessary higher-launch energy capacity, improvements in system maintenance, increased reliability and efficiency, and more accurate end-speed control and smooth acceleration. EMALS is designed to expand the operational capability of the Navy's future carriers to include all current and future planned carrier aircraft - from lightweight unmanned aircraft to heavy strike fighters.”