Gen­eral Atomics come call­ing

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Rear Ad­mi­ral (Retd) Sushil Ram­say ]

Buoyed by their path-break­ing suc­cess in de­sign­ing and de­vel­op­ing a high-end tech­nol­ogy suc­ces­sor of the cur­rently in use steam gen­er­ated cat­a­pult sys­tem for launch­ing air­craft from the air­craft car­ri­ers, Gen­eral Atomics of USA proudly pre­sented ca­pa­bil­ity, sig­nif­i­cant fea­tures and po­ten­tial of elec­tro­mag­netic air­craft launch sys­tem (EMALS) and ad­vanced ar­rest­ing gear (AAG) in Delhi May 22, 2013.

World­wide ex­pe­ri­ence of op­er­at­ing steam-driven cat­a­pults for launch­ing air­craft from the air­craft car­ri­ers has been quite chal­leng­ing, stress­ful, if not har­row­ing. To sur­mount the peren­nial dif­fi­cul­ties sev­eral al­ter­na­tive tech­nolo­gies have been de­vel­oped and tried out with limited suc­cesses. Ver­ti­cal & short take-off & land­ing (V/STOL) and short take-off but ar­rested re­cov­ery (STOBAR) were two par­al­lel de­vel­op­ments to cat­a­pult take-off but ar­rested re­cov­ery (CATOBAR), with the lat­ter still be­ing the pre­ferred op­tion for the sake of larger pay­load for ord­nance and en­durance. De­vel­op­ment of EMALS is seen as the true game changer which its orig­i­nal de­vel­op­ers, Gen­eral Atomics Elec­tro­mag­net­ics have pro­nounced as launch­ing a new era in the naval avi­a­tion. EMALS has all the right in­gre­di­ents to emerge as a wor­thy re­place­ment for the cur­rently and widely in use steam cat­a­pults. Be­sides, EMALS prom­ises to sub­stan­tially re­duce the op­er­at­ing costs, re­duced man­power to op­er­ate, im­prove cat­a­pult per­for­mance and ex­pand the range of manned and un­manned air­craft for car­rier borne op­er­a­tions.

In late 1999, Gen­eral Atomics (GA), San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia, was awarded one of the two pre­lim­i­nary de­sign and risk re­duc­tion (PDRR) con­tracts to build and test a pro­to­type EMALS for the US Navy at the Naval Air Sys­tems Com­mand (NAVAIR) land-based test fa­cil­i­ties in Lake­hurst, New Jersey. EMALS is a multi-megawatt elec­tric power sys­tem in­volv­ing gen­er­a­tors, en­ergy stor­age, power con­ver­sion, a 1,00,000 HP elec­tric mo­tor and an ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy closed-loop con­trol sys­tem with di­ag­nos­tic health mon­i­tor­ing. In 2004, GA was awarded the fol­low-on sys­tem de­vel­op­ment and demon­stra­tion (SDD) con­tract to build a full-scale EMALS at NAVAIR’s test site and per­form sys­tem val­i­da­tion tests. The joint GA and govern­ment team has suc­cess­fully com­mis­sioned the test site us­ing dead-weights rep­re­sent­ing var­i­ous air­craft weights and have com­pleted 134 manned air­craft launches across five dif­fer­ent types of naval air­craft, cul­mi­nat­ing with the launch of the F-35C, Joint Strike Fighter. En­cour­aged by the stu­pen­dous suc­cess achieved by GA, be­gin­ning with the USS Ger­ald R. Ford (CVN 78) EMALS would be the stan­dard fit for all US Navy air­craft car­ri­ers in the fu­ture.

In tan­dem with EMALS, dur­ing 2003 GA launched a R&D mis­sion for a re­place­ment of the tra­di­tional ar­rest­ing gear in use to­day. Re­lent­less pur­suit of the mis­sion for nearly a decade re­sulted in the de­vel­op­ment of Ad­vanced Ar­rest­ing Gear (AAG). One of the two con­tracts to de­velop the AAG was awarded to GA in 2003. Since then, GA has com­pleted more than 5,600 sim­u­lated ar­rested re­cov­er­ies on full-scale elec­tri­cal com­po­nents in its fa­cil­ity in San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia. A sin­gle-wire AAG has been in­stalled at NAVAIR’s Jet Car Track Site land-based test fa­cil­ity in Lake­hurst, New Jersey. This sys­tem has been com­mis­sioned by ar­rest­ing dead-loads sim­u­lat­ing var­i­ous air­craft weights. Sys­tem per­for­mance ver­i­fi­ca­tion test­ing is cur­rently in progress.

The AAG pro­gramme with an elec­tric mo­tor-based sys­tem that will re­place the cur­rently in use Mk-7 hy­draulic sys­tem for air­craft de­cel­er­a­tion dur­ing re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions will be the stan­dard fit for the US Navy air­craft car­ri­ers. AAG al­lows ar­rested re­cov­er­ies of a broader range of air­craft, re­duces man­ning and main­te­nance, and pro­vides higher re­li­a­bil­ity and safety mar­gins. GA’s de­sign re­places the me­chan­i­cal hy­draulic ram with ro­tary en­gines us­ing sim­ple, proven en­ergy-ab­sorb­ing wa­ter tur­bines cou­pled to a large in­duc­tion mo­tor, pro­vid­ing fine con­trol of the ar­rest­ing forces.

Pro­duc­tion con­tracts for full ship-sets of both AAG and EMALS equip­ment were awarded to GA in 2009. Both sys­tems are un­der pro­duc­tion and be­gan de­liv­ery to the ship­yard in 2011. Th­ese sys­tems are sym­bols of rev­o­lu­tion­ary ad­vance­ments in car­rier launch and re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions and of­fer a less stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment for ship­board op­er­a­tors, air­crews and air­craft.

F-35C com­pletes the first cat­a­pult launch

The F-35C In­te­grated Test Force at NAS Patux­ent River, Mary­land, con­cludes the first

round of cat­a­pult test­ing for the F-35C

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