While all eyes and most future aircraft carrier hopes rested on December’s first successful Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (Emals) launch of an F/A-18E Super Hornet, the real test is about to begin — making sure the Emals equipment can be produced in time to ensure the CVN-78 can be delivered on schedule.
“The real risk here has always been in the production phase,” says Scott Forney, vice president of electromagnetic systems for Emals contractor General Atomics.
“My biggest concern was: how do we get ready to produce hardware in time for CVN-78?” Forney tells Aviation Week. “We could not be the technology that holds up this ship.”
A lot is riding on the CVN-78. The Ford-class carrier features next-generation technology meant to reduce staffing and lifecycle costs while making the ship more efficient.
The centerpiece technology is Emals, and early development delays had many watching and wondering to see if the aircraft-launching improvements would delay the ship’s delivery or force the Navy to consider other alternatives to building the Ford class (Aerospace DAILY, Dec. 28, 2010).
Despite those concerns, Forney says he never had any doubt Emals would get the Super Hornet off the ground in December. Now, he says, the tests and refinements are meant to ensure the system’s reliability and flexibility. “It never dawned on me that we would not be able to launch that aircraft,” he says.
Judging from the response Forney got from the Navy brass, though, there was some concern in the service over the outcome. “I got a lot of calls from three-stars saying how happy they were,” Forney says. “They were not as confident as I was.”
Indeed, Forney says, he was thinking beyond the Super Hornet test, to making sure General Atomics could meet the aggressive production schedule. “This year is our biggest delivery year,” he says. “We’re delivering hardware six months early.”