How Things Work: Electromagnetic Catapults

From zero to 150 in less than a second.

Steam-powered catapults, expensive and difficult to maintain, are operating near their limits and will not be able to accommodate heavier aircraft planned for the future. (PH3 Jason A. Fults / US Navy)
Air & Space Magazine

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Care has been taken to make the launch process as similar as possible to current steam systems to help launch crews ease into the new technology. Pilots, as they position their aircraft for a catapult shot, won’t be able to tell if they are launching with electromagnetics unless they happen to notice the absence of steam escaping from the deck.

Electromagnetic catapult technology already has the ability to launch any aircraft now in the Navy inventory and any the Navy has ordered. With the new launch system’s potential to achieve acceleration forces reaching 14 Gs, human endurance may be one of the few limitations it faces.

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