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Electromagnetic catapult launches fighter jet

Navy test pilot Lt. Chris Tabert takes off in F-35C test aircraft CF-3 Nov. 18, the first launch of the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter from the Navy's new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, set to install on future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

An electromagnetic catapult successfully launched a fighter jet in a demonstration of two futuristic technologies, the U.S. Navy announced Monday.

The electromagnetic aircraft launch system, as the electromagnetic catapult is formally known, is being developed to replace the steam catapults that have launched fighter jets off Navy carriers for more than 50 years.


EMALS uses electric currents to generate magnetic fields that propel an aircraft down a launch track. 

 

The system, according to the Navy, is an improvement over of steam catapults, which are unable to generate the power needed to launch heavier and faster next generation fighter jets.  The catapult also causes less wear and tear on aircraft and is easier to maintain. 

In addition to the F-35C, which is a carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter scheduled for carrier trials in 2013, the EMALS team has launched a T-45 Goshawk, an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, a C-2A Greyhound and several F/A-18 aircraft with and without stores over the past 12 months, the Navy reported.

EMALS will be deployed on the Navy's futuristic aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, which is currently under construction and slated for completion in 2015.

The F-35C and EMALS still face funding and technological hurdles in their development, notes the website DoD Buzz, but the successful launch Nov. 18 is did demonstrate the future of aviation.

Updated 9:00 am PT on 11/30 with more details on the test launch aircraft.

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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.

 

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