Earlier this month General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced that its Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) carrier recovery system had completed performance testing in late August with the Northrop Grumman C-2A Greyhound, E-2C+ Hawkeye, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The tests were significant in not only clearing the AAG for further trials at sea with heavy, propeller-driven aircraft but also in allowing the establishment of an Aircraft Recovery Bulletin (ARB) that governs how the "props" are recovered to the carrier.
Trials were conducted under the auspices of PMA-251, Naval Air System Command’s aircraft launch and recovery team, at the U.S. Navy’s Runway Arrested Landing Site (RALS) at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The C-2/E-2 aircraft were flown by test and evaluation squadron VX-20.
“The AAG system is designed to arrest a broader range of aircraft and provide higher reliability and safety margins for the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class of aircraft carriers,” stated Rolf Ziesing, vice president of programs at GA-EMS. “As each aircraft is brought in for testing, AAG continues to perform reliably, arrestment after arrestment. The successful turboprop arrestments at RALS mark another significant milestone that moves the Navy closer to initiating recovery testing for these aircraft aboard CVN 78.”
Altogether the AAG system has successfully performed more than 800 arrestments at the RALS, including both “roll-in” tests in which the aircraft is taxied at various speeds into the gear, and “fly-in” trials in which the aircraft makes an arrested landing. Trials at the RALS were preceded by computer modeling and the tests of aircraft-representative weighted sleds at the nearby JCTS (Jet Car Track Site). The AAG has also been under test at sea in the first-of-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), where F/A-18E/F Super Hornets have undertaken several hundred arrestments during sea trials and shakedown operations for the new carrier.
GA-EMS continues to work with the Navy and shipbuilder Newport News Shipbuilding to refine the system. “We continue to stress the system, analyze results, and tune the system to ensure maximum performance,” stated Dean Key, senior director of EMALS/AAG programs at GA-EMS. “We are on target to be ready for fleet operations when CVN 78 completes its PSA [post-shakedown availability] in 2019.”
As well as the turbo-electric AAG system, GA-EMS also provides the electro-magnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) that replaces traditional steam catapults. A prototype EMALS system launched its first aircraft, a T-45 Goshawk, in June 2010. The first at-sea launch by the EMALS installed in CVN 78 was conducted on July 28, 2017, when a VX-23 F/A-18F Super Hornet was launched. Both AAG and EMALS are being produced for the next two carriers under construction, USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and USS Enterprise (CVN 80).