A team that works on the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for the Ford-class aircraft carriers finished testing earlier this summer that validates a software fix to ensure safe launches from the device, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said Thursday.
The Navy said 71 total EMALS launches were conducted by the EMALS Team and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 to confirm F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft fitted with wing-mounted 480-gallon external fuel tanks can launch off the Ford carriers without exceeding aircraft stress limits.
The EMALS uses electricity from shipboard power to propel the catapult along a magnetic track to propel aircraft with a smoother acceleration that puts less stress on the airframe. This is an upgrade over the previous system used on Nimitz-class carriers that use pressurized steam to propel the catapult.
The Navy said a post-review of aircraft instrumentation data indicates the new software control algorithm updates have corrected a previous EMALS launch issue.
The problem was found in April 2014 when a review of aircraft instrumentation data after System Development and Demonstration (SDD) Aircraft Compatibility Testing showed the holdback release dynamics exceed fleet allowances during launches when the aircraft are configured with the tanks, NAVAIR said.
“We were confident since the day that the issue was uncovered that it was solvable. The beauty of the system is that issues such as these can be accomplished with software updates instead of major hardware changes to machinery,” George Sulich, EMALS integrated program team lead, said in a statement.
NAVAIR noted although the aircraft met its programmed end-speed and launched successfully, post-test data analysis led to a deficiency report which in turn was cited as a concern in the annual report on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
Sulich said the EMALS team finished initial tests on the fix in 2015 and then the team loaded the new software build for additional tests this past April.
NAVAIR said the last step of testing the fix with instrumented aircraft launches was delayed a year because of competing test priorities. The new software is now set to be incorporated on the CVN-78 to support F/A-18 launches with the fuel tanks in 2019, after the ship’s Post Shakedown Availability.
The Navy commissioned the Ford carrier last Saturday.