Rhetoric supporting the new carrier launch system, EMALS, was on full display during CNO Roughead’s March 11 testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He said:

“…Among the new technologies being integrated in these ships is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will enable the carrier’s increased sortie generation rate and lower total ownership costs. EMALS is on track for an aircraft demonstration later this year and is on schedule to support delivery of CVN 78 in September 2015…”

But, according to Inside Defense (subscription required), reality, in the form of a question from Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), forced SECNAV Mabus to confirm that the EMALS program had experienced an ugly test failure. What happened, exactly? This:

“…According to a Navy official, on Jan. 12 during a test at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst , NJ, the shuttle was commanded to move forward 10 meters, but instead reversed direction and slammed into the catapult’s deck tensioner, causing damage to the system’s hardware. Damage to the armature and the tensioner was non-reparable, though a motor block and the end of the system’s trough, which also suffered damage, were salvageable. There were no injuries…”

That’s quite the mishap…But, never fear, they tell me this high-profile program is all still on schedule. Right?


I like EMALS, and I love this sort of high-profile challenge…and good poker games, too.

But…where’s the hedge? Did we start production of the Next-Gen Ford-class too early? If America needs to start figuring out how many MV-22s fit on the new LHA(N) amphibian, isn’t that something policymakers should know and discuss? And if the money that EMALS will, in theory, save (via reduced wear and tear, lower manning and so forth) gets eaten up by developmental costs and reliability SNAFUs, then, shouldn’t there be a debate on the strategic (and/or tactical) merits of this system?

Is a higher sortie generation rate and consistent high-power cat shots THAT important?


Posted by Defense Springboard in Aviation, Navy
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  • Where did the comment on the V-22 come from? That seems to have no place in this discussion!


  • YNSN

    Yeah, Solomon is right. I don’t get that.

    But, I think everyone might be too on edge in terms of new hardware after our LPD 17 and LCS fiascoes. I know I kind of am.

    In theory, this shouldn’t be all that hard: A series of electro-magnets turned on in sequence. That’s the basic premise, right?

    They’ve hardly gotten past putting the keel down on the FORD, so I’m not worried about this. Yet.

  • Sol, without functional cats, the FORD is just a brand-new enormous LHA. It’s an amphib. Thus the MV-22 quip (and, well, for that matter, why aren’t there MV-22s working off of carrier decks right now, anyway…hmm?)

    Now, that said, I was also riffing off of ADM Kilkine’s statement from Feb 09’s WEST conference, where he said, “We’re not planning on flying STOVL aircraft for the entire airwing. We’re not going to be STOVL E-2s out there.” Are we making ourselves a STOVL carrier?

    Put bluntly, YNSN, we’ve only got a few months before we need to make a irrevocable commitment to STEAM or EMALS cats. It’s decision-time. Read the Kilkine post:


    If it’s likely the FORD is gonna be STOVL carrier, then maybe we should do some thinking thinking about the V-22 TOSS or MASC variants…



    A niche mission for what is, in essence, a niche specialty airframe.

  • CaptanJoe

    Hmmmmm. The heat from the turbines of the V-22’s melt the deck???

  • Eagle1

    Way too soon to push the panic button on EMALS

  • Eagle1–I hope you’re right! I just don’t like having my full-size mock-up go kaput a mere month after the ribbon-cutting…It makes me a little nervous.

    Joe–They’ll probably melt the non-skid, but as far as melting the deckplates, I’ll bet that without the weight of the CAT system, the STOVL FORD can add on some fancy deck-cooling system without pushing the design margins…

  • I would guess that the reason why MV-22’s aren’t on carriers is because they’re too few of them and they aren’t part of the carrier air wing!

    Why place an asset where its not needed? Afghanistan? Yes. Okinawa? Yes. A carrier off the coast of Brazil? Heck no.

    Defense Springboard…I get the defense of another writer but that comment has no place in this article. If this new carrier turns into a big LHA then its an issue with NAVAIR and ONR….not an airframe being worked hard in Afghanistan (and more are needed there for the upcoming offensive).

  • CaptanJoe

    Who built EMAL, Toyota?

  • CBD

    V-22s aren’t on the CVNs because they don’t need them for anything. The ASW and UNREP are covered by the H-60 aircraft.

    V-22s aren’t on the LHDs/LHAs (except for long-range transportation) because they displace too many other aircraft, have only recently been proven in combat (and thus only recently can be seen as capable of serving in the contingency operations of an MEU) and for many logistical/technical reasons (trained technicians, spares, space for maintenance). Also, they melt the deck…sorry, they melt the deck covering and cause the deck to buckle if they’re parked with engines running hot(see below).

    The LHA-6 was designed specifically for these aircraft. The MV-22s are compact in their wing-folded form, but the engines and related systems in the wing can only be worked on when the wings are extended…which takes up a LOT of space. LHA-6 has maintenance areas set aside specifically for this, which is important given the relative vulnerability of those engines.

    Springboard & Joe,
    In DARPA’s words…
    “Navy studies have indicated that repeated deck buckling will likely cause deck failure before planned ship life. With the upcoming deployment of the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), it is anticipated that the engine exhaust plumes may have a more severe thermo-mechanical impact on the non-skid surface and flight deck structure of ships. Currently, there are no available strategies to mitigate deck buckling and thermal-mechanical deck failure other than heavy structural modifications.”
    See link in this article.

    DID covered this issue: Link (see under “Reliability & Maintainability” a bit over half way down, last item is the buckling).

    Ares at AW also covered it. Link. The F-35B reportedly has a method of avoiding the deck-melting when idled, but the V-22 does not. Key: Expected deck failure at 40% of expected life.

  • Herbal

    CBD, by saying the CVN won’t need V-22 for logistics means either:

    1) there’s an assumption that the C-2A (or it’s follow-on) will be on the flight deck for the next five decades; or
    2) we’re willing to keep the CVN within 100NM of the forward logistics site.

    I truly hope #1 is the correct assumption, but without moving forward on a replacement for the C-2A it’s yet another assumption that doesn’t match reality.

  • CBD

    1. The USN has had the opportunity to buy several copies of the V-22. They have not. DoN (via USMC), yes, but not the Navy part. They’re listed on the POR, but have never ordered any units nor allocated any funding for the purchase of units.

    2. The V-22 is a significant reduction in capabilities across the board vs. the C-2 and the E-2

    3. The USN has already ‘reprocured’ the C-2A once (First purchased: 1966, new aircraft procured: 1988). They should do it again. Simple, cheap, effective. They’re making 75 new airframes for the E-2D, the production line should be altered when E-2D production is complete to produce new C-2. They’re SLEPing the C-2A(R)s now, they should consider buying a C-2B (with the engine upgrades from the E-2D project).

    4. Myriad unresolved technical issues argue against using the V-22 for COD or AEW. Many technical issues have been resolved, but important issues for a COD or AEW mission (payload at range, cabin space, cruising altitude) remain unresolved.

    5. Even the Osprey’s successes reveal the limitations.
    First TRANSLANT flights required specially prepared MV-22s with 2 C-130 tanker-escorts and demonstrated limitations: Required stopover in Newfoundland for >1 day en route from NC to England, of 3 planes starting, the one without auxiliary internal fuel had to remain in Newfoundland, one had to divert to Iceland due to engine troubles and the third made it. 1/3=success! They tanked at 19k-20k ft, but cruised at 14k-16k ft. Considering the advertised ranges with internal fuel stores, that the birds with internal fuel stores had to refuel in the air indicates that the loaded range with internal fuel might be less than advertised. You can see why they transported the first unit to Iraq by amphib…it was the only reasonable method available.

    Stats for MV-22, C-2A(R), E-2 and (for space reference) F/A-18E.
    -Internal Payload Dimensions (LxWxH, in feet, MAX dimensions)
    MV-22 (OFFICIAL): 24.2 x 5.9 x 6.0 (143 sq ft, 856 cu ft)
    MV-22 (REPORTED, USMC): 20.8 x 5.7 x 5.5 (118 sq ft, 650 cu ft)
    C-2A (R): 27.5 x 7.3 x 5.4 (201 sq ft, 1011 cu ft)
    Square footage is important for bulk loads and pax, the main duty of the COD aircraft. Reduced area and volume impair the ability of a MV-22 COD to deliver larger aircraft and ship’s parts.

    – Cruising Altitude, Ceiling
    MV-22: 10,000-16,000 ft; 26,000 ft (cabin not pressurized, passengers and crew must wear O2 masks and cold weather gear above ~12,000 ft)
    C-2A: ~20,000 ft; 30,000 ft
    E-2C: unknown; 37,000 ft
    Reduced altitude decreases the radar horizon, reduces transport efficiency and range from stated ideal values. The lack of pressurization, temperature control and oxygen support means that the MV-22 is inappropriate for patient or passenger transport at an efficient altitude without weight-adding modifications.

    – Area Occupied (in carrier deck, in sq ft; l, w in ft)
    MV-22 (expanded):4,848; 57.3, 84.6
    MV-22 (folded): 1,167; 63.1, 18.5
    C-2A (expanded): 4,642; 57.6, 80.6
    C-2A (folded): 1,664; 56.8, 29.3
    E-2C (expanded):4,642; 57.6, 80.6
    E-2C (folded): 1,688; 57.6, 29.3
    F/A-18E/F (expanded): 2,695; 60.3 x 44.7
    F/A-18E/F (folded): 1,966; 60.3 x 32.6

    – Range (unloaded):
    MV-22: 879nm
    MV-22 (Ferry, Aux Int Fuel): 1,940 nm
    C-2A: >1,300nm (1.5xV-22 range)
    C-2A: 1,040nm (w/8,600lb of freight)
    E-2C/D: 1,400nm (1.6xV-22 range)
    This means many more V-22s are required for equivalent coverage time, precluding some overland missions such as the E-2C conducted during OEF and OIF. COD resupply will also be limited unless ferry configuration is used, which leaves minimal useful capacity. Aerial refueling is possible, but adds to the workload and benefits all aircraft types alike.

    – Payload(Internal, not including 4 aircrew):
    MV-22: (10,000lb)* or 24 passengers (bench seating)
    C-2A(R): 10,000lb or 26 passengers (airline seating), 39 passengers (bench), 20 litter patients + 4 attendants
    E-2C/D: 3,932 lb [a rough equipment weight estimated by (deadweight E-2C) – (deadweight C-2A)]
    Reduced payload. Mission payload for radar variant would leave small margins and reduce endurance, range and max altitude.
    *- Internal payload max available. Estimate based on external carried weight, likely high. ‘Designed’ for 20,000lb internal carry (300lb/sq ft over 66sq ft)…internal payload capacity not listed on official pages (see below).

    To determine internal payload capacity, we have to approximate from available information (MTOW-(empty weight + fuel weight)).

    Weights from: here, here and here.
    MV-22 Empty Weight: 15,032kg
    Fuel Cap (MV-22): 6,513L (=~5,308kg)

    VTO MTOW: 23,982kg
    STO MTOW: 25,855kg
    Self-Deploy,CTO MTOW: 27,443kg

    In self-deploy configuration, Cabin-stored fuel: +6072 L (4940kg)
    Max fuel cap in self-deploy config: 12,585L (10,248kg)

    Useful weight: MTOW – (Empty Wt + Fuel Wt)
    Useful VTO weight (@MTOW): 3,642kg (8,029lb)
    Useful STO weight (@MTOW): 5,515kg (12,158lb)
    CTO,aux fuel weight (@MTOW): 2,165kg (4,773lb)*
    *- Globalsecurity lists 3 tanks. With 3 tanks (2,470kg of fuel each), the total weight of aircraft + fuel is greater than MTOW. The figures used here assume 2 tanks.
    Airforce-technology states “VTOL with a payload of 8,300lb of cargo for a range of 220nm” This is close to the useful VTO weight I calculated above, just slightly larger. Consider the range here: About 220nm with maybe 30 minutes of hover time…less than 110nm radius of action with a payload! That won’t do for a COD.

    For comparison, the C-2A(R):
    MTOW: 26,082 kg
    Internal Fuel: 5,443kg
    Empty weight: 15,310 kg
    Useful Weight: 5,329 kg
    Max Payload: 4,536 kg
    Carrier Landing Weight: 22,226kg (Empty Weight + Payload + 1815kg fuel, equipment & crew)

  • CBD

    If we use the MV-22B as a COD, we’ll have to keep the carrier within those 100nm of the forward supply site. It would be easier (and nearly cheaper) to have an HSV go to the forward site, pick up the equipment/pax/mail and deliver it at 40knots.

  • Herbal

    Thanks, CBD. Absolutely agree that the V-22 isn’t the right aircraft to replace the COD. My point is that many assume that the same (or better) capability the C-2A brings will always be there, and the fact is that it won’t be unless we make some decisions soon.

    The C-2A is a great airframe. If there are better alternatives out there, I’d love to hear about them. It had better be soon, too, because the C-2A doesn’t have many years left. The right decision point for something new was about 10 years ago.

    Thanks for the great rundown of side-by-side numbers of C-2A v. V-22. It highlights what I know very well.

    As for AEW, that’s a no-brainer. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye will be with us for many decades to come.

  • And that’s why EMALS has got to happen.

    Few of us realize just how much of the FORD’s design is contingent upon EMALS. If we need to (gulp) re-design for steam, the design comes apart–I’m talking about billions of dollars and lots of time.

    But at least then we’ll have a carrier. If EMALS survives–even if it doesn’t do the job–AND we build the FORD around it, then…we’ve got nothing more than a big huge LHA. That’s what scares me–that we won’t know when to fold the tent on EMALS and, as a result, be left with a useless big flat deck.

    (Just FYI CBD, I’ve been barking at the V-22 for years over at my old legacy blog…go take a look!)

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Is there a reason, with all the big deck carriers we have/had in mothballs or awaiting the torch, that we didn’t use one as a test hull before deciding to build CVN 78 around experimental technology?

  • CBD

    Defense Springboard,
    I’ve seen it…and loved it. Not sure why I wrote you in on that message, in retrospect…

    I guess that was overboard. I’ve had people argue the point to me.

    I think the C-2A(R) refurbishments will give us some time…but they should really look at just using the open production line for new E-2Ds. I know the airframe of E-2 is somewhat different than for C-2, but they’re close enough…

    I had about half of it sitting in a document…the only new bit was my commentary and the estimates of the actual internal capacity. It also shows us why the V-22 can only go for about 50nm each way when carrying a full external load–exchanging a LOT of fuel weight to get the carried load up for the available engine power!

    Sorta like the LCS units demonstrating how fast they are without most of their weaponry installed…or counting their top speed with half of the fuel gone.

  • […] Despite happy rhetoric, EMALS commits sepaku | USNI Blog – https://blog.usni.org/2010/03/13/despite-happy-rhetoric-emals-commits-sepaku/http://www.GetShawty.com […]

  • URR–I don’t know why we can’t use, say, the USS Enterprise as a test-bed. I’m sure somebody smarter than me has a good reason why it can’t happen, but lord knows we’ve put enough money and time into her to eke out a few extra cruises….so….what’s an extra 100 million or so? (After all we’ve spent on Enterprise to date, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if she roared out of her refit with a fancy new CAT…it’d be a fitting way to that ship to ride into retirement..)

    As I understand things, EMALS obviates the need for high pressure steam, and that frees the carrier designer from a whole lot of constraints. I suppose, to convert to EMALS, you’ll need to get a whole lot of power to where you need it, and there’s a lot of moving parts that are tough to install–and, for that matter, would really gerspangle the snerzgotz if they, ah, broke down.

    But yeah….We need a demonstration carrier for this sort of stuff. Should have been done a while ago.

  • PK

    an important question that the crew will ask is “does the stupid thing (EMALS) use water brakes on the cat?”

    water brakes used to throw the crew into water hours in about two days of operation no matter what was boiling the water.


  • CBD

    That wouldn’t have been transformational enough. You know you’re not allowed to put new systems on old platforms before testing them out…then you’d never get around to a POR for a 100 billion dollar research project. If your technology exists already what’s the worth of putting it into a plaform!!!

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Silly me. I will know better next time…..

  • Spade

    You guys made a lot of hay out of DS’s offhand joke about a CVN turning into a helicopter carrier. Weird.

    Anyway, is there a backup plan in case it doesn’t work?

  • You could start with the correct spelling in your head as; “seppuku.” If you are going to use terms from a language of which you are obviously not a native speaker, then use a dictionary, or skip it.