The US Navy's next-gen Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) has already shown it can hurl weighty dead-loads. Now, after months of trials, it just propelled its first actual aircraft. A jet fighter performed the first EMALS launch and recovery from the USS Gerald R. Ford on Friday.
The military's been having a blast shooting steel sleds from the carrier in preparation for the latest trial. Unlike conventional steam catapults, the new system uses electromagnetic energy from the ship's generator to send a fighter down the runway -- in the vein of a railgun. It also weighs less than its counterparts and requires less upkeep and manpower. An added advantage is the smoother acceleration it offers aircraft during takeoff. However, EMALS has come up against some hurdles in the past, including a botched public launch in 2015. The plan is to use the catapult to launch F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E2D Advanced Hawkeyes, and even lightweight drones.