Saturday, December 1, 2012

Physics of fighter jets

By Paul Donohue

I’ve always been interested in fighter jets, particularly of how they are able to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. They are able to accelerate so rapidly with the aid of a steam powered catapult. See below:


The release of a great deal of pressure in the form of steam drives the piston of the catapult forward, bringing the plane with it. In finding just how large the magnitude of work done by the catapult might be, I had to do some research. I found that the standard length of a catapult track is 72.8 m and the thrust of a F-18 super hornet’s engines is around 3.9x105 N collectively. I estimated that the fighter would have 6.03x107 J of Kinetic Energy at takeoff meaning the work done by the catapult is:
=6.03 x 107 - 3.90 x105*72.8=3.2*107J.

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