Aircraft carrier catapults are
about to enter the electric age. Existing steam technology has been
around for decades, and is a maze of steam pipes, valves and hydraulics
that all require a large maintenance contingent. These steam "cats"
are large, heavy and inefficient. The Navy's new models now in the test
phase use linear induction motors that are driven into explosive motion
by energy provided from advanced storage systems. Fine tuning of the
acceleration parameters to individual aircraft needs will increase the
life of airframes and lower maintenance costs. These new systems will
be half the size and cost of existing steam systems, and require 30%
fewer maintenance team members. These e-cats are due to begin service
by the end of the decade.