Watch The Navy’s Railgun Catapult A 4-Ton Sled Off An Aircraft Carrier

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The day is coming when the U.S. Navy will be able to use its electromagnetic launch system to hurtle all manner of aircraft into the skies, but for now we’re content to watch this rather impressive demonstration of its awesome power.

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) represents a revolutionary next step for the U.S. Navy. While the principle is generally same as the traditional steam-powered catapult, the railgun uses stored kinetic energy and solid-state electric power conversion. Once EMALS is ready for primetime, the system will be able to hurl all sorts of aircraft, from lightweight unmanned planes to heavy strike fighters.

EMALS is intended exclusively for U.S. Ford-class carriers, starting with the USS Gerald R. Ford, which happens to be the ship on which this demo took place. The Navy is hoping to launch aircraft by 2017.


After experiencing a “communication-type issue of components talking together,” the Navy was finally able to initiate the launch of two dead loads. The first weighed 15,000 pounds and traveled at 161 mph (260 km/h), while the second weighed 8,000 pounds and traveled at 207 mph (333 km/h).

It’s important to point out that this system is distinct from another railgun project, the Navy’s littoral railgun.


H/t Popular Mechanics!

Contact the author at and @dvorsky. Top image by U.S. Navy