Video: F-35C Launches From EMALS

Here’s another PR victory for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A Navy F-35C test jet launched from the sea service’s next-generation electromagnetic catapult known as EMALS on Nov. 18, a move that combines two of the technologies that will be the hallmark of 21st Century naval aviation.

This comes a month after the highly publicized sea-trials of the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B aboard the USS Wasp, and the news that the overall JSF flight test program met its goals for 2011 a month early.

This announcement is the latest news from an F-35 program office that is on a full court press to show that it is righting the formerly beleaguered program in order to stave off budget cuts that Pentagon officials have famously warned about.

Click through the jump to watch a video of the jet being launched:

  • dimeck

    It must be great for those South Jersey folks to see this bird in the sky.

  • Morty

    Finally making progress

  • David

    Calling F35 a hallmark of 21th Century naval aviation is slight exagerration

  • Lance

    Looks cool.

  • digimatrix

    I would take F-22 over F-35 any day of the week. Such a shame they had to end F-22 production.

  • Black Owl

    The F-35C is great, but it doesn’t match the Super Hornet International Road Map in terms of capability for the dollar, firepower, flexibility, or reliability. It only has one engine. Navy jets are supposed to have two in case of engine flameout!

    The SHIRM is also better than or just as capable as the F-35C in all areas with the exception of having a slightly bigger radar cross section from the sides. Not only that, but costs of using the SHIRM would only be a fraction of the costs of using the JSF, especially considering the price of putting it into production and the costs of operating them. The SHIRM is what the Navy and USMC need, not the F-35C:

  • JRL

    EDIT: Should say “(with still MORE to spend)”

  • Mitch S.

    A relief to know the EMP from the EMALS doesn’t knock out the fancy electronics of the F35!

  • SpudmanWP

    Let’s see the SHIRM to F-35C comparison:
    1. SHIRM is a barn door vs the F-35 in RCS
    2. The F-35 can carry two of the giant 5000lb bunker busters, the SHIRM none.
    3. MADL provides stealthy datalinks while the Link16 ones on the SHIRM can easily be detected.
    4. The F-35’s EODAS tracks all WVR targets (and missiles) while the SHIRM still needs the Mk1 Eyeball to track and target HOBS WVR targets.
    5. While the SHIRM’s radar has a higher output compared to the F-35’s, the SHIRM’s lack of LPI modes (as compared to the APG-81) will mean that it’s radar is detected sooner than the F-35’s.
    6. To get anywhere near the F-35’s range, the SHIRM has to mount wing tanks which means less bombs & missiles, higher RCS, and less maneuverability.
    7. Cost wise the SHIRM is virtually the same as the F-35. If you compare the FY2012 F-18E to the FRP F-35C, there is only an ~$20 mill difference. Throw in SHIRM dev cost and increased avionics cost and the price will almost be the same.
    8. If you develop those pods to help the SHIRM carry weapons then the F-35C can carry the same pod and be even better.
    9. Any F-35 (worldwide) can use any UAI conforming weapon within months of it’s development without the need of a new Block upgrade. The SHIRM would need costly and time-consuming software upgrades to use newer weapons.

    My point is that while the SHIRM is a little less expensive, it is nowhere near as flexible and powerful as the F-35.

    • jumper

      Don’t confuse him with facts…

  • Nadnerbus

    I am annoyed at the cost overruns, but it would be a crime to cancel this thing outright at this point. What’s worse, paying too much for an overpriced but very capable bird, or paying a ton of R&D and still getting no bird at all.

    Can we just learn our lesson and stop with the cost-plus contracts next time? Say “here’s what we are willing to pay for our next-gen-whatever, here are the capabilities we need, can you produce it at a profit or not?” Tech development is supposed to be done before you order the damn thing, not thrown in after you commit to ordering it.

    “Yes, I’ll take a thousand new I-pads, and I’ll commit to the cost no matter what it is. Now go develop them.” How insane does that sound?

  • JRL

    So tell me, Spud, what exactly is the RCS of the two aircraft in question, and from which aspects? I’m assuming you must be privy to such presumably classified knowledge to be making such bold claims. And how do you know that the SH AESA radar lacks the LPI ‘modes’ of the F-35 APG-81, and that those purported extra modes will significantly enhance tactical ability vis the SH AESA LPI protocols?

    And BTW, how do you know what the FRP cost of an operational F-35C (With all the capabilities you list) is? Or even when (Or if) the F-35C will FINALLY enter FRP…

    • SpudmanWP

      RCS: Generally accepted frontal aspect (the only tuned aspect for the SHIRM btw) public info puts the F-35 in the “golf ball” range and the F-18E (clean) at the “basketball” range. Add external stores (CFT and pod) to get the SHIRM into combat config and it goes up from there.

      LPI modes: There is one main reason why I think that the APG-79 does not come close to the APG-81’s LPI modes. Quite simply the absence of a claim proves the absence of a capability. The F-18E has been and is being offered in many competitions (some against eh F-35) around the world and they have yet to even mention once any LPI capability. I know that all radars have been developing LPI modes since their inception, I am just saying that the -79’s do not come close to the -81’s.

      As far as “that those purported extra modes will significantly enhance tactical ability”: The F-35 pilot with the -81 will be more confident in his knowledge that using his radar will not give his position away most of the time. Knowing this, he will use it more and likely find targets first vs the SHIRM pilot who has to work about enemy RwR detection more often.

      As to cost: I am going with the US and Canadian numbers as projected.

      • JRL

        IOW, nuthin’ but hearsay and conjecture…

      • SMSgt Mac

        Minor point FYI. The RCS has been acknowledged as actually better than ‘golf ball’ in official literature to date, which describes the F-35 as “VLO” (vague as to where it needs to be VLO). See my post at:
        VLO is commonly used to describe systems that have the RCS of <=.0001 sq meter return,(<= -40dBsm). For reference, this is about the sixe of a small insect (thnk small honey bee).

  • SpudmanWP

    I almost forgot. The CFTs on the SHIRM add 110nm but the EPE engines ( 20% thrust) will eat up most if not all of that.

  • Black Owl: “It only has one engine. Navy jets are supposed to have two in case of engine flameout!”

    This is a familiar cry, but modern engines are more reliable than some of the examples put forward to support this claim. The following is an extract from a VolvoAero press release earlier this year.

    “Gripen aircraft have now flown a total of over 150 000 flight hours. It is noteworthy that not a single Gripen aircraft has suffered an engine-related failure or serious incident during these 150 000 hours … At Volvo Aero, the company can proudly state that the first 150 000 flight hours were achieved without a single engine-related failure or incident.”

    It is worth noting that this year SAAB formed a design team in the UK to develop a carrier variant of the single engined Grippen. They hope to get a slice of the growing carrier aircraft market – including the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

    Black Owl: “The second engine is about redundancy and survivability and the JSF lacks it”

    System redundancy obviously does increase survivability. The main threats of MANPADS comes from the fact that they are cheap and consist of relatively accessible technology and have therefore become widely available; and passive infrared seekers, which to some extent have been simple to deceive with decoys, have until recently been very difficult to detect – relying on aircrew either spotting a launch by eyeball or firing flares routinely at perceived high-threat points of their flight.

    War has always been a long game of one-upmanship, MANPADS are no different. Development of systems like Indra’s Manta… will lead onto similar but smaller systems capable of being carried by F35. Northrop Grumman (and others) are also developing IRCM for helos,… which shows that the MANPADS threat is being addressed.

    The risk of single engines being lost to MANPADS is mitigated by development of defensive measures. A single engine is no longer the risk it may have been just ten/twenty years ago.

    • JRL

      Yeah, the Gripen has the good fortunate to be powered by an exhaustively tested and proven engine with an exceptional operational reliability record. The same one that powers the SuperBug.

      The F-35, OTOH is dependent upon a new engine that derives its high thrust by operating at extremely high temperature and pressure. One with no operational record whatsoever. It is not merely a pumped-up F119.

      It may be that the F135 will work out to be equally reliable as the GE F404/414, but then again, despite costing over $10M a pop, maybe not. Plenty of other highly-touted new engines have turned out to be unreliable maintenance hogs.

      All other things being equal, a twin will always be more likely to get you home than a single, and when you’re spending over a $100M per jet (Anyone who believes that a complete, combat-ready F-35 will ever cost less than that needs to cut back on the LM/JPO kool-aid…) it just makes more sense, both economically and from the point of pilot safety.

      • SpudmanWP

        It’s not just LM that claims F-35s well under $100 mil, but every other partner nation and the latest SAR reports.

        A twin engined fighter of F-35’s quality will:
        1. Cost more (more engines, higher maint rate, higher design cost and material cost).
        2. Less purchased for the same amount of total acquisition.
        3. Less fighters = higher usage rate
        4. High usage rate = greater lifetime cost.

      • JRL

        Pratt and Whitney says: “The award-winning performance of the F119 PBL team and the outstanding performance of the F119 engine are good indicators of what the services can expect when we field and support the F135 engines powering the F-35 Lightning II”

        Over 380,000 total F119 engine operational hours, nearly 200,000 operational flight hours. That must count for something towards the reliability of the F135.

        • JRL

          The F135 is a vastly different beast from the F119, common ancestry notwithstanding. And the fact that the F119 has run up a lot of hours is not in itself evidence that it is reliable and low-maintenance. Note that I am not claiming that it is not. I don’t know.

          In any case, the F135 is not the F119. In fact, I’m not aware that a significant percentage of components, or even any, are interchangeable between the two engines. Anyone know?

  • Bill K.

    I’m former S2F crew. Welcome any Navy Air articles – even VF related.

  • Edward

    Don’t let obama know about it, he’ll think itr’s too costly and look for ways to either cut the take off part or the landing part as a cost cutting measure.

  • dave woods

    over the years many people have spoken out about new weapons that are not worth the cost or time, my friends were would we hqave been without the b-47 or b-52, they have protected this country for over fifty years the f-35Bwill be around for a very longtime, as was the F-100, F86, f4 etc stay strong and live long my friend.

  • TimM

    This is good etc but the actual worry at the moment is that the tailhook doesn’t work and the plane can’t land on a carrier. It’s rather incredible that such a problem should happen but there you are.

  • InlandSquid

    Got to see the EMALS in action was pretty cool.
    Being An Aviation Boatswains Mate “E” and working the C-13-Mod 1 compared to the C-13 was a suttle difference, But Mag tech sure is the way to go. Question: What happens if this EMALS is hit with EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse)? 2) Does this mean the Cats are no longer dependant on the BT’s for steam at all? Last, What kind of drag does this put on the Ships electrical system? Had some great times on Deck, also some bad and even horrific times…. But if i could and had the chance, I would accept a REFTRA deployment just to smell the JP5 and have the fillings in my teeth vibrate once again (lol).


    It’s news now, but in a couple of years it’ll be considered as old news when F-35Cs are launched via EMALS off the USS Gerald R Ford.

  • OSCS

    All I can say as a 12 year Air Intercept Controller Supervisor regarding the F/A-18E/F vs the F-35C, is that we’ve been working some crazy tactics just to keep the Legacy and Super Hornets survivable against CURRENT threat aircraft, we’ll win every time if our guys don’t make any mistakes, but there is no margin. The F-35 will give the Navy and Marine Corps the same technology leap as the F-14 did over the F-4 in the early ’70s.

    • Taurus2Go

      WTF? … how did this happen … what are you saying … how deficient are we …?

  • Redbone

    Hey OSCS, former AICS here too (Nimitz, AIC school instructor twice and JFK). Dunno about you but even tho I don’t miss the employer I sure miss that job. I love the smell of burning JP5 in the morning. Keep em off your 6 shipmate.

  • Nimitz ’77

    I’m surprised I didn’t hear any squawking about an EM wire. The principle is the same as the catapult. And why can’t they put a hook on the thing, isn’t the frame strong enough? Hi Redbone.

  • RWDP

    So, I know nothing about these systems. Can someone explain to me how the planes launch if an EM pulse weapon knocks out the EM launchers?

  • Jack

    Why is no one saying anything about the Marine Corps STOVL variant?

    • PMI

      The B got plenty of press a month ago when it was doing trials off the Wasp.

  • Jules Bartow

    Yeah baby! That F-35 is one sexy looking jet, whether the USAF (-A), USMC (-B) or USN (-C) version. To make it even more versatile we should have funded a fourth variant back in the late-1990 JAST days: a UAV. This would have taken a lot of pilot life support (ejection seat, canopy, flight controls, displays) weight out of the aircraft.

    Nevertheless, unlike the F-22, originally designed with the mantra “Not a pound for Air-to-Ground” this is a multi-role utility vehicle that the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Israel, Singapore and Japan may be flying as well.

    If you have insomnia, there’s nothing quite like having a bunk underneath the cat to teach you to sleep anywhere. EMALs looks like it’ll take that experience away and reduce the probability of a cold cat launch too. Better hope a rat doesn’t chew on the wiring and salt water short out the linear induction motors, or worse –the EMI affect a sailor’s iPod.

    Don’t forget to flight test in icing conditions and heavy rain (no Andersen Air Force Guam B-2 crashes please) –something you don’t get very often at Edwards and China Lake in the Mojave desert or Pax River on the Chesapeake Bay. OK, you get a lot of rain at Eglin AFB (and it can get really really cold in the McKinley Climatic Lab but you’re not flying). A lot can go wrong in the logic for INS, GPS, and air-data sensor fail safe redundancy for the FCS. Sure it’s just software (7.5 MSLOC) but it costs a lot to test the stuff.

    P.S. Thank you for keeping Snookie out of the video. Now New Jersey and Lakehurst are known for more than the Jersey Shore and Hindenburg disasters.

  • I still cant believe the navy is getting all the new planes. The airforce is still stuck with the F-22.

  • Heinz

    Fantastisch, super Idee!!

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