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

    • Tim

      Surely, most would agree with you… But the 21st Century is already 1/10 of the way in… and after the F-22, the F-35 is currently the most-advanced 5th generation fighter jet out there. The PAK/FA T-50 has basically 3 prototypes with only about 100 test flights. The J-20 is even less.

    • SpudmanWP

      I think that the term “hallmark” is appropriate. According to Webster’s Dictionary the term hallmark means “a distinguishing characteristic, trait, or feature”. That would truely apply to the F-35 as it is the USN (or any navy’s) first carrier-borne VLO multi-role fighter.

  • 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.

    • tiger

      F-22’s Can not launch off a carrier.

    • builtman

      I completely agree!!!! The F-22 is what Russia and China have been trying to counter, not the F-35.

  • 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:

    • Riceball

      But the F-35 wouldn’t be the first single engined Navy jet. Both the A-7 & F-8 were single engine birds, then there’s the F-9 & F-9F both also single engine birds, then there’s the A-4, the FJ-3, FJ-4, F3H-2N. So, as you can see, the Navy has had quite a few single engine birds in its inventory; while having twin engines may be a preference of the Navy it’s definitely not a requirement.

      • Black Owl

        Just because the concept of a single engine carrier fighter was used doesn’t mean it should be used again. All those aircraft were great until they suffered from an engine burn out or a direct hit from enemy fire. The US Navy chose to navalize the YF-17 instead of the F-16 for multiple reasons and one of those was because it had two engines. The older Hornets could take a hit from a manpad and still fly back to base during the Gulf War. The F-35 would have trouble taking small arms fire. The second engine is about redundancy and survivability and the JSF lacks it.

        • tiger

          Sorry, I’m with Riceball. Your over playing the 2 engine deal. Now we have Boeings & Airbuses that don’t need 4 engines for long range flights. I highly doubt They would put 8 jets on a B-52 if they had to do it again. Trying to land a shot up bird on one engine is not going to happen much.

        • Historyshowsus

          I saw an F14 have a flame out at launch. It still didnt fly on one engine. crew was killed in spite of the fact that it had reached about 200 knots by the time it went in. Two engines are often over rated. Most accidents are catastrophic and that extra engine isnt likely to help.

    • 4fingersofbourbon

      imagine how much a f35 would cost with 2 engines!

      • JRL

        It would have cost LESS with a pair of F414s, because the US would not have had to pay billions extra developing the F135.

        Not to mention that a twin would have also eliminated all those extra billions spent (with still to spend…) developing the utterly unnecessary Marine boondoggle known as the ‘Bee’.

        BTW, anyone else notice that the landing was a typical air force ‘flare’ landing rather than an USN SOP carrier no-flare landing? What’s up with that?

        • Mitch S.

          Perhaps because they’re not using arresting wires?

          • Lousailor

            Regardless of arresting wires, most Navy pilots land the standard 3 deg glideslop to touchdown with no flare, but usually there is an Optical Landing System (OLS) available at Navy fields.

        • blight

          Thought they were developing 135 in case the program didn’t meet its promise. Having the “choice” of 135 or 136 means little if you can only take one with you into the air, or did you mean that if 136 couldn’t meet its performance targets whereas a hypothetical second engine could?

          • PMI

            P&Ws F135 is the primary engine. The F136 is the alternate being developed by GE. He’s referring to using a OTS engine (the F414) as a proposed means of saving money over developing a new one. However the long term increased costs of supporting twice as many engines in the fleet is a strong argument against his claim.

          • blight

            Alternatively, the 414 is long in the tooth and perhaps might be detrimental to stealth (which was another reason why they pushed the -119 for the F-22). Two engines would make the JSF bigger, and I’m curious if the added volume of two engines would be compatible with the lift system and being able to maintain specified range, power etc.

      • jhm

        thats called the f22 hehehe

    • SMSgt Mac

      First, Please quantify “having a slightly bigger radar cross section from the sides”.

      Second, I have a friend who:
      a. Probably has the most stick time in the A-7 AND is probably the only man to have flown EVERY variant of same.
      b. Flew every Navy strike platform since the A-7 with the exception of the F-18E/F and he had a role in the development of the E/F requirements.
      c. Commanded a CAG
      d. Skippered “Strike U” (Fallon) and
      e. is on this somewhat exclusive list:
      Given what he’s told me in our conversations to-date discussing the F-35 (he’s stoked about what it brings to the fleet), single engine vs twin engine survivability and reliability, G-load design limits vis a vis strike aircraft requirements, and Naval Strike in general, I’d say you’ve been drinking the Boeing KoolAid by the barrel.
      BTW: The twin vs single argument has been going on since the earliest days of the Tigercat, blossomed into full flower when the first unreliable jets hit the decks and will continue long after all of us are long gone. There are no absolutes in the equation.

      • Black Owl

        That’s nice. I read a book by J.A. Stout, a combat experience USMC Hornet pilot that fought in the first Gulf War. We both have reliable sources, but aren’t primary sources ourselves. I don’t see what your getting at.

        I don’t exactly have the RCS figures for both aircraft available to me, but it is obvious that the SHIRM would have a higher radar cross section from the sides.

        • SMSgt Mac

          Well if you want to base your opinions on the singlular POV of a Harrier-hatin’, junior (at the time) meat-servo’s anecdotal experience, instead of a far more experienced Commander and Leader of same that’s your business. BTW. My expert was in the Black Hole in Riyadh during ‘The Storm’ telling your guy”s boss where to send him every day.

          The RCS question was rhetorical. Only asked to highlight that no one on these boards really knows what the RCS of the F-35 is from any angle or any frequency band, or if they do they wouldn’t even talk about it.

          It’d be helpful if you expressly intimated to all that you are repeating or asserting your own opinions, instead of stating them as if they were fact.

      • JRL

        SMSgt Mac sez: “I have a friend”…

        JRL sez: See

        So tell me, Sarge, what flavor of “KoolAid” goes best with lame logical fallacies and hearsay?

        • ben

          read the article you linked to sometime…

          appeal to INAPPROPRIATE authority is the fallacy.

          As long as the source is legit, and he acknowledged that his source was fallible, then the argument is not fallacious.

          • JRL

            Sarge’s so-called ‘authority’ doesn’t even have a name, much less a publicly available record that can be verified. That’s a pretty important part of being “legit” authority, donch’a think?

            Try harder.

        • SMSgt Mac

          Thanks for beating me to the obvious (#1) point Ben. Now for the obvious (#2) point. I was giving part of the rationale for my opinion versus assertion of any “proof”. Specifically (emphasis added):
          “Given what he’s told me in our conversations to-date discussing the F-35 (he’s stoked about what it brings to the fleet), single engine vs twin engine survivability and reliability, G-load design limits vis a vis strike aircraft requirements, and Naval Strike in general, >>I’D SAY<< you've been drinking the Boeing KoolAid by the barrel My whole point of chiming in in the first place was two-fold. First: opinions vary, and some things hold long open disagreements among the best of the experts, and that basing your entire position on a single book somebody once wrote is tenuous at best in light of other information. Second: if you are spouting off opinions, make certain you add the proper disclaimer.

    • Taurus2Go

      0h, lets just see what the probability folks said about 1 eng. reliability specs. and stats. vis-a vie budget nerds … hmmmmm? no validated reports, O.K., step up you bureaucrats, who wants to fly the 1st combat mission in a desert dust storm?! … or anywhere w/AA capability … dumass is alive and well in the procurement end game …

    • fireblade900

      Sorry Black Owl I have to agree w/ Historyshowsus. A twin engine aircraft produces too much yaw on a flameout. A pilot nor the avionics cannot control the aircraft during such a situation.

      You may recall the female F14 pilot died when she had a flame out during a carrier landing. This is where flameouts happen most often because of slow speed and high angles of attack. During this landing situation there is not enough command authority with the tails so even if there were electronic controls it could not control the landing. The F18 may be an exception because the the engines are by the centerline.

      I am not aware of any twin engine jet fighter or commercial aircraft that has brought it’s crew home after a flameout.

      The ditch in the Hudson shows that the probability of both engines failing due to foreign object damage (FOD) is at or near 100% then you could just imaging the probability of FOD for directed fire onto a military jet.

  • 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!

    • fireblade900

      Hi Mitch S. The EMALS is a linear electric motor. Somewhat like what the levitation trains use. The magnetic filed is contained simply by the the may magnetic work.

      Regarding the cars at the airport situation you mentioned, that is not magnetic energy that is RF radiation in the microwave spectrum just like you microwave. You would start to get warm yourself if the radar were pointed at you. I’ve had a similar experience when they were testing the radar of an A-6.

      It has been demonstrated that you can light a light bulb only using the correct length wires connected to its electrodes.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • SpudmanWP

      No company would ever develop anything new (especially on the level of a VLO multi-role fighter) if they had to take the risk of a fixed price contract without padding the heck out of it. This would lead to higher overall costs due to companies having to pad heavy in order to guarantee survival. Once the costs are known then the contracts can transition to a fixed cost type (like LRIP4 onward, 2ys ahead of schedule btw).

      • Nadnerbus

        I get that, but I always thought that was what DARPA type programs and technology demonstrators are for. Look at the X-47. No one has committed to ordering them yet, they are being developed ahead of time before a final design is settled on and a production order is made. Ideally, the technology should be mature enough that it can move right into mass production without another ten years of further development and changes once the decision to order is made.

        I’m obviously not an expert on the topic, it just seems dysfunctional and designed to create cost overruns.

        • SpudmanWP

          How many previous programs (Stealth UCAV) came before the X-47B? IIRC, even the X-47B is a cost-plus contract.

        • SMSgt Mac

          Search Engine submit: “Technology Readiness Levels” aka TRLs. and how they are used in acquisition. There will always be risk in fielding new technologies, and we already don’t field that which is not seen as needed (the days of “Requirements Pull” replaced “Technology Push” at least two decades ago). The biggest problem with the bean counters and the other ‘risk-adverse’ of this world is that they want all the risk taken out of development and know all the answers, costs and challenges beforehand but can’t wrap their noggins around the fact that all risk only goes away once something is actually fielded.

          • Chaostician

            Your use of the smear word “bean counter” is troubling. Any Cost Analyst worth a dang knows it is impossible to take all risk out of development, contrary to your straw man assertion of their view. And none would make as dumb a statement as “all risk only goes away once something is actually fielded.” If your noggin can’t get that let me know and I’ll provide an explanation.

    • Taurus2Go

      can I just get an “AMEN” to this radical no nonsense, common sense, non-political, economically feasible, thought process … ?!

      ooops! forgot I was dealing with weapons development in a democracy; … hope it lasts long enough to figure this BS out.

  • 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.

  • Brian Black

    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.

  • 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 …?

      • 3325e5

        Its not that we have a deficiency, rather a vast improvement over where we are now. When F14 was developed to replace F4, it was faster, had much better radar, including the then new Phoenix missle, had similar air to ground capability, and had the m61 20mm vulcan cannon whereas the only F4 model that had a gun (other than a gunpod taking up valuable weapon load space) was the E model.
        F35 has better electronics, better engines, is designed to be improved…so shut up and watch it outperform our beloved superhornets.

  • 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.

  • Connor Dinsmore

    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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