The ITAR-TASS correspondent and the head of the Nevsky PKB spoke about the future of domestic and foreign aircraft carriers, and also touched on a number of important topics. Perhaps the most interesting point of the interview is the statement by S. Vlasov that a certain domestic organization is already engaged in research on the subject of an electromagnetic catapult for promising aircraft carriers. The general director of Nevsky PKB did not specify who was involved in the promising project, nor did he disclose any details of these works.
S. Vlasov noted that promising domestic aircraft carriers are likely to need a catapult to launch aircraft. In addition, the appropriate aircraft will be needed. The exact appearance of the aircraft carrier and the aircraft for it has not yet been determined, but work is already underway in the field of electromagnetic catapults. How long it will take to implement this project is not yet completely clear. As international experience shows, the creation of an electromagnetic catapult is quite a challenge. For example, American engineers have created and upgraded such a system for more than ten years.
The general director of Nevsky PKB also noted the low reliability of promising systems. With all its advantages, as follows from open sources, electromagnetic catapults are still losing steam in reliability by almost two orders of magnitude. Electromagnetic systems are not yet very reliable, which is why the number of critical failures for a certain number of work cycles is still too large.
From the words of S. Vlasov, it also follows that at present only an electromagnetic catapult for aircraft carriers is being developed in our country. Steam systems of a similar purpose are not of interest to domestic scientists and designers. The head of the Nevsky PKB explained this with some features of the steam catapults. Such systems need a nuclear power plant of the ship, which produces steam for them. As for the electromagnetic system, it is easier, more compact and smoothly accelerates the aircraft, and its characteristics can be adjusted depending on the weight of the aircraft.
According to S. Vlasov, the use of catapults may not have a serious impact on the appearance of a promising aircraft carrier. As an example, he cited American ships, each of which carries four catapults: two on the nose and two on the corner deck. A promising domestic aircraft carrier can save a springboard in the nose of the flight deck, as well as get two catapults per corner.
The head of the Nevsky PKB believes that it is too early to talk about the cost of the finished electromagnetic catapult of the Russian design. Such a system consists of several components (the actual catapult, high-voltage equipment, generators, etc.), which makes it difficult to estimate its final cost. In addition, the number of ships may affect the price of the system. The larger the series will have, the less the cost of each catapult.
If the topic of an electromagnetic catapult is further developed, then, according to S. Vlasov, one of the Russian ground-based simulators can become a platform for testing such equipment. Appropriate equipment can be installed and tested on the NITKA complex in the Crimea or in Yeisk.
Despite the fact that the construction of a new domestic aircraft carrier is still a matter of a sufficiently distant future, reports of work on an electromagnetic catapult for such ships look very curious. This means that defense enterprises are already engaged in various studies that in the future will help create a project of a ship with an aviation group on board.
It should be noted that the work on the creation of a catapult is in a sense a continuation of projects that were created in the eighties. The aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk, which was never completed, was supposed to be equipped with steam catapults. Thanks to these systems, the ship could provide several types of aircraft. The fact is that the take-off springboard used earlier can only be used by aircraft with high thrust-to-weight ratio, and this imposes a restriction on the composition of the aircraft’s aviation group. Carriers with catapults are less demanding from this point of view.
Foreign experience, primarily American, clearly shows the advantages of using catapults. Over the past decades, steam systems of this class have been actively used on US Navy ships and provide them with greater flexibility of use.
The newest American project in the field of catapults for aircraft carriers is the electromagnetic system EMALS, created for the ship USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). It is alleged that the catapults of this system will allow the aircraft of the ship to carry out at least 160 sorties per day instead of 120 sorties for aircraft carriers with a steam catapult. This should accordingly affect the effectiveness of the combat work of both the aircraft carrier itself and the carrier strike group to which it belongs.
Earlier this year, there were reports of similar development for the authorship of Chinese experts. Foreign media reported that China built a ground-based test facility equipped with a prototype of a promising electromagnetic catapult. Details of the Chinese project are unknown. The length of the experienced catapult is estimated to be 120-150 meters with a length of electromagnetic guides about 100 meters.
Thus, the leading countries of the world, intending to develop their carrier fleet, are going to abandon obsolete steam catapults, switching to the use of electromagnetic. The advantages of the new systems over the old ones are obvious and are no longer in doubt. However, the creation of an electromagnetic catapult is quite a challenge, since this unit consumes a huge amount of electricity and therefore requires a special approach to the creation of the ship’s power systems.
Theoretically, an aircraft carrier with a steam or electromagnetic catapult can be equipped with a steam-turbine power plant, but it will not allow systems to be brought to the required level. The expected effect can be achieved only with the use of a nuclear power plant, which is clearly shown by the American experience. It is too early to talk about the appearance of a promising Russian aircraft carrier, but we can already assume that the electromagnetic catapult under development, if it comes to practical use, will be used on a ship with a nuclear power plant.
However, all this is only speculation. The development of a new Russian aircraft carrier has not yet begun, and so far there is no exact information on which systems will be used on it. It should be recognized that information on the creation of an electromagnetic catapult may be evidence that some preliminary work is being carried out on aircraft carrier topics. Such preliminary research and development will help shape the technical requirements and appearance of a promising aircraft carrier, whose construction will begin in the future.
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