Watch the Navy’s New Aircraft Launcher Fling Dummy Cars Into the Sea

I wonder how far it could launch the average SUV?

byNico DeMattia|
YouTube. HII
YouTube. HII.


The USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) has been afloat since 2019 and is one of the most high-tech combat-ready aircraft carriers in the United States Navy's fleet. It's also about to get even more high tech. Newport News Shipbuilding—the company building the Navy's Ford-class aircraft carriers—is currently testing its new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) by running "dead-load" exercises, shooting incredibly heavy car-like sleds off the front of the ship, and it's amazing to watch.

Aircraft carriers have had aircraft-launching catapults since the 1950, however they were always powered by steam. EMALS uses an electromagnetic linear induction motor that slides its carriage along a track to launch planes into the air. In this new video, you can see just how powerful the system is, as it's capable of sending a wheeled sled off the deck of the JFK shockingly far.

Video thumbnail

At first, I didn't think the sled flung a massive distance. Then I considered the ground covered relative to the size of the people still standing on the JFK, and realized it traveled about a football field's length in the air. It flies so hard and far than when it hits the water, the splash looks like that of an underwater bomb. That sled is hitting the surface with an immense amount of energy.

To test EMALS, the manufacturer uses six different sleds of different sizes and weights to simulate various plane sizes. One of the main benefits of using EMALS over the old steam catapult system is its ability to launch smaller, lighter planes. The steam setup was powerful, and could hurl massive aircraft with ease, but it wasn't versatile and couldn't handle smaller machines. The one sled weight shown in the video is 7,800 pounds, which is light for a military aircraft but would equate to one of the heaviest cars on sale right now. The EMALS yeeted it seemingly 300 yards off the ship and with so much velocity that it skipped across the surface of the water.

There are a number of reasons why the Navy is switching over to EMALS, rather than steam catapults. It's a drastically smaller system that takes up less space on the ship and dramatically reduces weight. It's also far more energy efficient, which is always better. And it's more reliable, requiring fewer services and repair hours. But even with its improved versatility, reliability, and efficiency, EMALS is still powerful enough to slingshot aircraft that make the Hummer EV seem light through the air with ease. Next I want to see them try it with a car, though.

Got tips? Send 'em to