Electro Slingshot Problems

US Navy’s plane-hurling mass driver in tech hiccup

The so-called Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, is now under development in a shore-based test facility at Lakehurst naval air station in New Jersey. However, according to reports, the test mass-driver installation suffered serious damage earlier this year in a mishap blamed on a “software malfunction”. Apparently the “shuttle” – which moves along the catapult track to accelerate a plane to flying speed – went the wrong way in a test shot and smashed into important equipment.

It seems to me that problems with this should be solvable.


  1. Polarity inversion is a pretty stupid software f**k up. How could they not have caught that in checkouts?

    Aerospace software engineers are usually pretty paranoid – I’m curious as to how they missed this.

  2. If you think the software glitches are the big scandal, wait until Congress becomes aware of the little matters of power-drain, position/presence-betraying EM emissions, hull/flightdeck/airframe magnetization, and — most fun of all for the crews of future carriers — [b]capacitor explosions[/b].

    1. Capacitors need to be abused pretty badly before they explode (eg reverse biased). I don’t think that’s likely to happen. If it’s a possibility there are ways to prevent it such as placing big diodes in parallel to absorb any over/under-voltage transients and a supervisor circuit which cuts power to the device if it detects either condition.

      In short it’s a solveable engineering problem.

  3. I’m amazed that they are in the middle of building a super-carrier that includes a key system that has yet to be successfully tested. What an tremendous risk.

    1. It’s OK. If it doesn’t work out we can always retrofit in old steam cat technology for four or five times the price.

    2. I liked the quote in the article: “We’ll end up with the world’s largest helicopter carrier.”

  4. Heh… don’t worry, building without first having all the designed technology either developed, tested, or even available is all the new rage.
    Witness the LCS, the DDG-1000m heck ANY new US Navy program.

  5. Let us not forget how well the ahead of it’s time, technically overreaching liquid propellant system served the development and deployment of the Army’s state of the art Crusader SPA system………………OOPS! Bad example……..that got cancelled, and now even the Dutch have a better SPA system than we do. 🙁

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