New EV-Based Catapult Can Launch A 30-Ton Plane

New EV-Based Catapult Can Launch A 30-Ton Plane

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Chinese researchers developed a new, powerful Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) using the technology of electric vehicles. This powerful catapult can launch a 30-tonne projectile in around 2.1 seconds and could significantly slash the cost of aircraft carrier EMALS catapults.

The researchers claim that the new catapult system “has a small footprint, simple structure, and is lightweight and does not require a complex power supply system,” and the South China Morning Post reported it can handle twice the weight of the J-20, China’s most advanced stealth aircraft.

According to Interesting Engineering, existing EMALS accelerate an aircraft using a long, straight track, with many electromagnetic coils that are laid around the track to generate thrust for continuous acceleration as the plane passes. However, those EMALS are experiencing increasing issues, including poor reliability, low efficiency and prolonged malfunctions.

The researchers state that this new technology could potentially free up valuable deck space on carriers and allow other warships to launch long-range air strikes. If it indeed works, this technology could also give the Chinese Navy a significant advantage.

The key to this success lies in China’s growing EV technology market. Electric cars employ torque motors for faster acceleration and convert braking energy into stored electricity, and this new tech follows a similar working principle – a powerful motor drives a heavy flywheel to rotate quickly before catapulting, and once the plane is secured on the catapult shuttle the flywheel passes kinetic energy to a winding wheel.

The winding wheel then pulls the shuttle through a steel cable, applying force to the aircraft’s landing gear and accelerating the plane to take-off speed. Stopping the plane is also quite simple – the flywheel’s spin is reversed without needing additional gear.

According to their paper, the researchers managed to construct a successful prototype of a catapult and claim it can launch large fixed-wing planes into the sky with just 100 meters of runway, meaning it could be a viable option for many Chinese warships’ decks.