back to article Electric plane-flinger for US and Royal navies doing well

The electromagnetic mass-driver catapults that will equip the next generation of aircraft carriers in the British and US navies are doing well in tests. This is important to both services, as their next carriers will be effectively useless without the new technology. An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Black Eagles of Airborne …


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  1. Dave Harris Bronze badge


    Are you saying a minister lied (I note, outside the HoC) to defend a poor politically-based rather than evidence-based decision? Heaven forfend...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genuine confusion

    Genuinely, I'm still not sure exactly why it is we didn't go nuclear on the carriers - it's not like we don't have at-sea, naval, nuclear powered craft (well, ok, submersibles) as it is.

    Surely it can't have been outside the ken of man to design the carriers around the existing reactors that have, to the best of my knowledge (which I'll admit isn't that extensive, so I'll stand to be corrected on this) never had an incident relating to the power plant? At least that way we'd've not been forking out on new reactor development costs etc. The Rolls Royce PWR2 is good enough for Astute...

    Does anyone know why this is? Was it for sensible, non-environmental reasons?

    1. Yag

      Simple reason

      A nuclear-powered carrier cost a effing lot more than a conventional one... This is why the French navy is stuck with only one carrier to replace the old Foch and Clem'

      For submarines, the cost is a non issue, as only a nuclear powered sub can stay submerged - hidden - for all the duration of its mission.

    2. TonyG

      It was down to cost.

      Nuclear power plants were considered but ruled out due to cost rather than environmental considerations.

      1. Graham 25

        Yes, but .....

        No one has yet managed to decommission fully any nuclear carrier so while you are right that its a cost concern, it is also environmental.

        All the US obsolete ones lurk in Virginia, the Russians have dumped theirs on the shores somewhere and so the last thing anyone needs is more nuclear reactors around. Whereas a sub can run for six months plus on nuclear can stay submerged without supplies, the same isn't true of a carrier. It has to be resupplied, and so while they are at it, they can refuel.

        1. Scopes
          Thumb Down

          @Yes but ....

          Typical ignorant civvy.

          No U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has been de-commissioned.

          The first such vessel, U.S.S. Enterprise is still operational, almost 50 years after she was first commissioned (November 1961). All of the Nimitz-class ships are either still in commission or in refit.

          Enterprise is due to complete at least one more 6-month deployment before she is withdrawn and de-commissioned in 2013.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how small you can make one...

    Imagine being able to create one so that you can launch small unmanned recon vehicles from something the size of a semi trailer.

    (Imagine a contraption looking a little like a car trailer where you launch from below and recover from a shorter deck on top...

    So you end up with a land based 'carrier' ...

    Sounds weird I know, but if you think about it, it makes sense...

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "I wonder how small you can make one..."

      This is one tech that scales down quite well.

      This is already done for UAVs and as others have mentioned, thrill rides.

      Bear in mind the first stab at this was c1948.

      Things have gotten better since then.

  4. NoneSuch

    "It went to war in the Falklands and many other places using pocket-size, catapult-less carriers (which originally had to be referred to as "through deck cruisers" to escape the government ruling against carriers)."

    Kudos to the boffins who came up with this tech, but the above paragraph does demonstrate how governments freely ignore their own laws when inconvenient. That's the stuff that keeps me up at nights.

    Grabbing my coat for the weekend. Time for the pub.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      It's better than that. On the assumption that no private citizen was *ever* going to build a warship of any kind, the law being broken could *only* ever have applied to the government, which was always at liberty to change it if it wanted.

      So it was an utterly pointless act to introduce the law in the first place.


      When they did finally change their minds, they chose to break the law rather than repeal it.

    2. SkippyBing

      There was never any law as such that the UK wouldn't have carriers, just an unwritten policy that no new ones would be built as part of the draw back from East of Suez. To get round that the RN called the Invincible class cruisers, presumably no MP or civil servant felt like exposing their ignorance by asking what the 'through deck' bit meant so consequently when a new carrier friendly* regime came in to power the hulls were at least under construction rather than having to start from zero.

      *relatively speaking.


      Splitting hairs...

      Don't worry so much. On this side of the pond, a ship that can only launch harriers and helicopters would not be considered an aircraft carrier either. We tend to call something like that an "amphibious assault ship".

      If you don't have a little give there then you would end up banning stuff like (real) cruisers and frigates.

  5. Colin Millar
    Thumb Up

    Love the credit on that picture tag

    "Mass communications specialist"

    Nice to see the Navy hasn't lost its sense of humour.

  6. Mike Richards Silver badge

    I find it hard to believe that the Gerald R Ford will be a useless stopgap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      The U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford is not a stop-gap!!

      Its proudly commissioned between the U.S.S. Richard M. Nixon electronic surveillance ship and the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter, which had to be decommissioned because on launch it collided with a garbage barge, had the propellers fall off and then beached itself in a nudist colony!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I see what you did there

      > I find it hard to believe that the Gerald R Ford will be a useless stopgap

      ... like its namesake?

  7. meier

    Dream on, Lewis

    The way things are unfolding, it's more likely that the carriers will be flogged to India and France, than used by the Royal Navy.

    If they're ever completed - which isn't likely either.

  8. Kev99

    Modern Tech courtesy an Amusement Park

    Way back around 1996 Kings Island introuced "Flight of Fear", a thrill ride powered by a linear induction motor. It's still in use today. And the US Navy spent spent several days inspecting it for use on carriers. Per KI, it's given over 11.5 million rides since then. I think the technology works.

    1. Zippy the Pinhead


      The Tech does work well.. when it does work. That ride however is down for a lot of maintenance.

      I can understand why the navy wants to get away steam.. it's dangerous and highly corrosive.

  9. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Genuine confusion

    >I'm still not sure exactly why it is we didn't go nuclear on the carriers

    Because our masters at BAe/Thales want to be able to sell other carriers to tin pot little third world dictatorships after they have got the MOD to pay for all the R+D and tooling.

    Unfortunately there is all sorts of red-tape involved in a US arms company like BAe selling nukes to valiant allies in the war on terror like Pakistan, Libya 2.0, etc. So they need them to be gas turbines.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "There have been some UK experiments along EMALS lines

    by the British arm of French heavy-'leccy firm Converteam,"

    Converteam is neither British nor French, but owned by USA's GE Energy, a division of General Electric.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You mean they are now American?

      Oh well, I expect LP's next article to say that they are the best things since sliced bread and recommending we buy 100 of them.

  11. Wibble257

    More drivel from Page, still over egging the Harriers limited capabities and using a mixture of selective conditional fact and fiction to prove it.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Wibble257

      Ah, but leccy catapaults mean there are also more options for the choice of eventual aircraft now. Without cats, we were pretty much tied to the expensive F-35B and subject to American political ransom for tech. With them, we could choose to dump the whole F-35 order if required and simply shop around, or even navalise some of the RAF's cast-offs (like that has never happened before).

      /Yaaaaaaaaaar, obviously.

  12. Magnar

    On route at least

    Nice to see the new 'plane flinger has managed to work at last. I hope the ITAR issues that have bedogged the whole F35 project aren't going to raise their ugly head on the catapult as well.

    On a related matter

    "The Harrier GR9 could also carry Storm Shadow, supposing you actually wanted to."

    No it couldn't Lewis. Linking to an out of date piece of speculation doesn't make it so. Harrier/Storm Shadow integration never went ahead, mostly because the poor dumpy little Harrier would have struggled to get airbourne, would have needed repeated tanking to go anywhere and would havestruggled with the asymetric load after firing one missile.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Show us the facts....

    "but Converteam is in the doghouse with the Royal Navy at the moment: the company supplied the all-electric drives of the new Type 45 destroyers, which have not been a success."

    Lewis, Can you justify that statement? If so I would like to see the information and not just hearsay and bland statements.

    Electric drives is cutting edge stuff that even the Yanks haven't got yet but it is future, but you would expect teething issues. As far as I know however the drives have been as reliable, if not more so than traditional engines.

    If you are going to sling mud around you really need to justify your statements because some people who have not read your column before may think you know what you are talking about.

    Anyway now Converteam(which was never really French) is part of American GE, I will expect better press in future.

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