Aircraft carriers have been equipped with steam-powered catapults from the very start in order to help launch fighters and bombers and get them airborne quick. However, this old-fashioned technology seems to be a bit too old for the Navy to use it on newer multi-million aircraft.
As an alternative, the US Navy is now looking to replace its technology with an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). The technology is currently being tested aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford and uses bursts of electromagnetic energy to launch planes much more smoothly and efficiently compared to the steam catapults.
While aircraft carriers are one of the biggest ships found on the sea, they are still not big enough for aircraft to generate enough lift before they reach the end of the ship. This is why they required some auxiliary help, such as the steam catapults, to generate that extra lift force to get them into the air.
However, steam catapults come with some drawbacks. The old technology is said to take up a lot of space and weigh in at 1,300 lbs. The systems are said to take a long time to recharge and after each launch, the launch itself is said to be abrupt. This means that there is no smooth acceleration for a steam piston, putting a lot of wear on the aircraft each time it launches.
Steam catapults are also said to use more power than the EMALS system, which is rather surprising. The switch to EMALS is said to bring smoother acceleration, improved reliability and a more efficient design.
Thank you Geek for providing us with this information