Fusion Research Yields a Win for Next Generation Navy Carrier


Apr 28, 2004

San Diego, CA, April 28, 2004 - Earlier this month, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division awarded General Atomics the contract for the System Development and Demonstration phase of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).

EMALS will replace the existing steam-driven catapults, providing a revolutionary advance in carrier launch operations. The GA team's design will provide significant reductions in workload, greatly reducing manning for future launcher operations and maintenance. It will be less stressful to the aircrew and aircraft; and will require significantly less maintenance and onboard personnel, with correspondingly greatly reduced life-cycle costs. The EMALS system's first deployment will be on the next-generation carrier, the CVN-21.

Mike Reed, Vice President of General Atomics' Electromagnetic Systems Division, stated, "Our team is thrilled with the award of the EMALS SDD phase contract and at having the opportunity to place this major advanced electric EMALS system on the next-generation carrier. We appreciate the significance of changing this vital aircraft launch system from steam to electric power.

Reed went on to credit the development of GA's winning EMALS technology to the skills and basic technologies developed under General Atomics' fusion research program. General Atomics operates and is the host institution for the Department of Energy's DIII-D ("dee-3-dee") National Fusion Facility. DIII-D is the nation's largest magnetic fusion experiment.

The purpose of the DIII-D device and program is to further the fundamental science of reaching and maintaining the conditions necessary for fusion (the energy source of the stars) on earth. While steady progress toward the ultimate goal of practical fusion energy is being made, the advances made on DIII-D and other facilities like it around the world have yielded important benefits in many other areas. The EMALS project is perhaps one of the more striking examples of this.

"The attainment of fusion conditions in a device such as DIII-D requires extremely precise control of the discharge of large amounts of pulsed power" said David Baldwin, Senior Vice President and leader of General Atomics' Energy Group. "The major challenge of the EMALS system is exactly that: delivering precisely controlled amounts of pulsed power to the electromagnetic system that accelerates the airplanes off of the carrier deck. The unique skills developed by DIII-D technicians and scientists in this and related areas led directly to GA's winning approach to this challenge."

Baldwin continued: "I am extremely proud of this latest example of fusion energy research yielding unexpected benefits to the nation."

General Atomics, founded in 1955, specializes in diversified research, development, and manufacturing in defense, energy, and other advanced technologies. Affiliated manufacturing and commercial service companies include General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., which builds the Predator® family of unmanned aerial vehicles, and General Atomics Electronic Systems, Inc.

For further information contact:

David Baldwin
Senior VP, Energy Group

Carl Fisher
Director, Business Development
Electromagnetic Systems Division

Doug Fouquet
Public Relations


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