The US Navy's USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier has become the first to launch and land fighter jets using an electromagnetic catapult, replacing the decades-old steam systems used by other ships.
Despite the system appearing to work in a very similar way to those used by aircraft carriers for the past 60 years, the new electromagnetic launch and land system is less complex and requires fewer crew members to operate and maintain. The historic takeoff and landing came just a few days after President Trump commissioned the new aircraft carrier.
Essentially an electromagnetic railgun slotted into the landing deck of an aircraft carrier, the new system is easier to power than steam launchers and removes the need for installing steam plumbing beneath the deck.
Other aircraft carriers boil water to create a head of steam, which is then fired under pressure down a slot in the flight deck, dragging the tethered aircraft and launching it into the sky.
The US Navy claims the new system is safer, more reliable, easier to maintain and has a higher launch capacity than previous systems.
Also known as an advanced arresting gear (AAG), the electromagnetic system can land, or 'arrest', a greater range of aircraft than any steam-based system.
As well as requiring less maintenance and crew, the new system can launch aircraft with more power and operate with increased energy efficiency and reliability, while providing a smoother acceleration and a more accurate takeoff speed. The range of aircraft capable of launching from the USS Gerald R. Ford spans from unmanned drones to heavy bombers.
A built-in test and diagnostics system means the AAG requires fewer crew to perform maintenance checks between launches and landings.
Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces, said the USS Gerald R. Ford had "made history" and praised the "great work by the Ford team and all the engineers who have worked hard to get the ship ready for this milestone."
Captain Stephen Tedford said: "I could not be more proud of the men and women who, for the better part of the last two decades, have worked to bring these new technologies to the fleet."