Does the Navy Actually Launch Pickup Trucks Into the Ocean To Test Aircraft Carriers?

A viral video of a U.S. Navy Aircraft carrier catapult launch claims that the government is wasteful because it is launching new trucks from a boat, into the ocean. But the video is miscaptioned: the object that may look like a truck is actually a reusable weighted sled the Navy built for this exact purpose.

Does the Navy tests aircraft carrier catapults with trucks?

A viral Facebook video appears to show the Navy launching a huge truck off the deck of an aircraft carrier and into the water, and its caption confirms this. But the video is miscaptioned and the Navy was using a specially-designed sled.

Screen capture of a Facebook video supposedly showing the Navy launching a truck into the ocean.
“Catapulting a truck” video | The Other 98% via Facebook

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A Facebook page called “The Other 98%” posted a 15 second video clip on February 9th, 2019. The clip is a panning shot of a large object flying off the deck of a distant aircraft carrier and crashing into the water.

The video is surrounded by two letterbox style black strips with the following caption:

“Trucks were just launched off the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier to test its jet catapult system. Don’t ever let anyone tell you we can afford Medicare for all or the Green New Deal.”The Other 98% via Facebook

The video has racked up over 1,000 comments and 5,900 reactions (such as likes and emojis). It has also been viewed 385,000 times. But this clip is cut out of a much longer video published by the Navy in 2015, and it only tells part of the story.

The Navy uses specially-built sleds to test its electromagnetic catapults

The specially-engineered "dead load" the navy uses to test its aircraft carriers' EMAL system.
EMAL testing dead load | US Navy via Youtube

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Modern aircraft carriers use highly advanced Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) to catapult fighter jets off their decks at incredible speeds. These catapults must be calibrated and tested, so the Navy has invented a “dead load” to launch.

The dead load is a sled with four wheels that the Navy can load with up to 30,000 pounds in weights. These sleds are not equipped with any expensive electronics or other special equipment. That said, the Navy often conducts its tests in shallow water so it can retrieve and re-use its “dead load” sleds.

The Navy conducted the USS Gerald Ford EMALS test shown in “The Other 98%” Facebook video in the James River. What’s more, it was able to retrieve the sled for future tests. You can see the entire test in the video below:

Many saw through the Navy ‘truck’ test video

The USS Gerald Ford Navy aircraft carrier on its maiden voyage.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) | Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

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The comments section of “The Other 98%” video make it clear that many viewers were not fooled by the caption claiming the Navy was using a truck to test its EMALS system.

Daniel Loope said, “Those ‘trucks’ are test devices. They are recoverable data gathering instruments.”

Jerry Slater added, “These really aren’t trucks you could drive, They are test tools called ‘Trucks.'”

Gregg Long wrote, “There needs to be a retraction on this post. These vehicles being launched by the catapult are purpose built and retrieved and used over and over again. There is no waste here…”

So while the Navy does not use functional trucks to test its jet catapult system, some have wrongly claimed it does. But most people did not fall for the misdirection.

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