Reference News Network reported on February 20th The US Strategic Page website published a report on February 16th entitled "The US Naval Air Force said that the electromagnetic ejection system is defective." According to reports, in early 2019, the US Navy confirmed that the electromagnetic emission system (EMALS) used in its latest Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier and three other Ford-class aircraft carriers under construction had significant design, construction and performance. problem. The Ford used the EMALS system extensively in the 2017 sea trials, and will do so in combat and training operations in the future.
It turns out that the EMALS system is not as reliable as the old-fashioned steam ejection system, and it is more labor-intensive to operate, and the ejection will bring an unexpected overload (impact) to the carrier. In addition, due to a basic design flaw, if one of the electromagnetic catapults does not work, the other three catapults may not be available. This means that it is impractical to have one or more steam ejector off-line for maintenance or repair at sea (but does not affect the ejection of the carrier, this network note) because the design of the EMALS system does not allow this. do.
The report believes that the Ford may have other problems because the US Navy also requested that the full ship impact test (FSST) be postponed again. In the impact test, a controlled explosion occurs in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier hull (pre-set underwater explosives, this network note), generating an underwater shock wave equivalent to 66% of the impact of the aircraft carrier design, simulated in actual combat The enemy's near-missing hits, which show that the equipment is not built or installed enough to withstand underwater shocks, and will also verify that the hull is generally resistant to shock waves. The US Navy hopes to wait until 2024 when the second Ford-class aircraft carrier (Kennedy, CVN-79, this network note) is in service, because the US Navy admits that it is not sure that the FSST impact test will be for the Ford-class new system and design. How much damage is caused by the function.
At the same time, Ford's electronic equipment (radar), flight deck arresters and some ammunition lifts have some drawbacks, but these problems are less severe than the failed electromagnetic catapults. In the first half of 2019, all issues still to be addressed on the Ford will be resolved. By the end of 2019, the Ford aircraft carrier is expected to be ready for actual deployment.
For those familiar with the new military technology, the drama is all about the exaggerated description of the normal R&D efforts. This means that sometimes the aircraft carrier has a design flaw or failure, and the cost is often a factor. These problems can be solved, but the cost of a new aircraft carrier (or new fighter, new tank) may become unbearable.
The problem with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers is that the speed of replacement is slower and new designs are not often developed. The Ford is the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the US Navy to have a completely new design in 40 years. Due to its high cost, it can only build up to 10 aircraft. Therefore, the technical problem of the Ford-class aircraft carrier is a big problem. The Navy believes that based on past experience, the technical problem of the EMALS system is one that can be solved during the service of the new aircraft carrier. This includes adjusting the operation of the EMALS system to mitigate overload (impact) on the carrier aircraft during ejection; modifying the design of the EMALS system; and rearranging the crew's familiarity with the way the system is used to reduce the number of personnel required to operate the catapult.
However, fatal flaws involve reliability. After another year of hard work, the US Navy believes that progress has been made and the EMALS system is becoming a mature technology. The goal of the mature EMALS system was developed before the Ford was launched. The original design of the electromagnetic catapult was that there would be a failure every time it was shot 4,100 times. However, in the case of heavy use during the sea trial, the electromagnetic catapult actually failed every time it was ejected 400 times. By the end of 2017, the Navy concluded that an aircraft carrier equipped with an EMALS system successfully completed a four-day high-load use (in a large-scale combat operation, the high-loaded catapult released the carrier fleet) with a probability of only 7%. And the chance of successfully completing a one-day high-load use is 70%. This is because when an electromagnetic catapult fails, the four catapults of the entire ship will collapse. In fact, the Ford-class aircraft carrier's performance in combat is much weaker than the previous (Nimitz-class) aircraft carrier. The US Navy said in 2019 that the EMALS system has become more reliable, but it does not say how reliable it is.
There is no easy solution. For example, the removal of an EMALS system and the installation of an old-fashioned steam ejection system cost more than $500 million. It also takes years and leads to many other internal changes. The US Navy is still considering, as a matter of expediency, let a recently retired aircraft carrier return to active service. This is because no matter what solution, it will not be quick or cheap. One of the most worrying parts is that naval shipbuilding and design experts are clearly unable to find a solution to the problems they cause.