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HII shipyard starts testing aircraft carrier John F Kennedy EMALS with dead-load launches

HII has started testing the catapults on aircraft carrier John F Kennedy with dead-load launches. (HII)

HII's Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) unit has started testing of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) on aircraft carrier John F Kennedy (CVN 79), marking a major milestone for the ship, HII confirmed on 21 February.

After testing catapults one and two – the bow cats – with no-load launch movements, NNS workers and Kennedy sailors started the dead-load testing, HII acknowledged in a release.

For the dead-load testing, large, wheeled car-like structures of graduated weights up to 80,000 lb (36,287.4 kg) to simulate the weight of actual aircraft are launched off the carrier's bow into the James River bordering the shipyard in Virginia, HII said.

The dead loads are retrieved and relaunched until the conclusion of the test programme to ensure the catapults are deemed ready to launch all US Navy (USN) carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft.

Officials connected with the Kennedy programme told Janes earlier this month that dozens of dead-load shots have been launched.

Kennedy is the second ship of the Ford-class carrier fleet outfitted with EMALS, which replaces the steam-powered catapults used on the Nimitz-class predecessor carriers.

Lead ship USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) recently returned from deployment, during which USN officials reported the ship's EMALS and its new aircraft recovery system – Advanced Arrested Gear (AAG) – worked as designed throughout its time at sea.

The numbers of launches and recoveries – or sorties – is a key figure for carriers. The two operate essentially in tandem and landing or recovery numbers also reflect the number of catapult launches.

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