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Navy Still On Board For New Arresting Gear on Carriers

 Diagram shows General Atomics’ Advanced Arresting Gear, which slows carrier-based aircraft when they touch down. Most of the machinery is hidden below the flight deck. Photo at right shows part of the machinery: a conical/cable drum assembly. Rendering and photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
Rendering and photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

They said it before, and U.S. Navy officials said it again: General Atomics’ new arresting gear — which goes by the initials AAG — belongs on the Navy’s next aircraft carriers.

“AAG works,” said Capt. Steve Tedford, the manager in charge of the Navy program, in a Jan. 23 statement from the Naval Air Systems Command in Maryland.

AAG stands for “Advanced Arresting Gear.” The command said it wants to go ahead with plans to put the machinery on the future USS John F. Kennedy, which is under construction. The gear slows an aircraft in the seconds after its wheels touch a carrier deck, and after the aircraft tailhook snags a cable stretched across its path.

Some have questioned whether the General Atomics arresting gear belongs on the Kennedy, the second carrier in the new Gerald Ford class. The novel system is over budget, and development is behind schedule, according to a report from the Pentagon inspector general’s office.

Critics of the system say the more prudent course would be to install the proven Mark 7 arresting gear — which the Navy uses on its existing carriers — on the Kennedy.

A board of top Navy officials made a “thorough review” of the program in November and backed the plan to put the General Atomics gear on the Kennedy rather than install the Mark 7 gear, the command said in its Jan. 23 statement. That board included Sean Stackley — assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition — and Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer. Also reviewing the technology was a Defense Department team that included Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Congress has asked the Navy for more facts about the system, including an assurance that the service wants to put the new technology on board the Kennedy. Congress made the requests in the defense authorization bill signed by President Obama just before he left office.

The Navy program office said engineers had to redesign a major component in the system called the water twister, and added that the government and GA have made incremental improvements in software. While much is left to be done, the project is “on the right track,” said Rear Adm. Mike Moran, head of the office overseeing the AAG program.

As of December, the Navy had tested the General Atomics system with weighted sleds 1,400 times and with actual aircraft 351 times. The program office said the Navy plans to trap an F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft with the new system on the future USS Gerald Ford later this year.

The program is expected to cost billions of dollars.

General Atomics is privately held. Separately, the San Diego tech company is producing an electromagnetic aircraft launch catapult for the Ford class. A company spokeswoman said GA was not commenting on either program.

 Northrop Grumman Corp. reported that revenue from autonomous systems — such as the U.S. Navy Triton — rose. Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.

UAV Business Gives Northrop’s Numbers a Lift

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s unmanned aircraft business did well last year.

The contractor reported higher sales in its autonomous systems business for both the fourth quarter and 2016 as a whole, thanks to higher volume on the U.S. Navy Triton program and the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk program. Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) runs those programs from its facilities in Rancho Bernardo. The company did not give specific numbers and said increases were partially offset by another program — NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance — ramping down. All of the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft are built around a

 Palomar Display Products is building visual display systems for tanks similar to this M1A1 tank, seen during a recent exercise in Djibouti. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps, Robert B. Brown Jr.

common Global Hawk design first dreamed up at Teledyne Ryan in San Diego.

For the year, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman reported net earnings of $2.2 billion on sales of $24.5 billion. Sales of aerospace systems (manned, unmanned and space vehicles) amounted to $10.8 billion in 2016, up 9 percent from 2015. Operating income was $1.2 billion, giving Northrop 11.4 percent margins in its aerospace business. Northrop Grumman reported earnings Jan. 26.

Company Sets Its Sights inTanks

Carlsbad-based Palomar Display Products Inc. said it received two contracts collectively worth $4.2 million to supply visual display systems for soldiers operating M1A Abrams tanks. The optically coupled systems — which have been designed, tested and qualified for the Abrams tank — will be delivered this year and will be installed on U.S. military tanks. Palomar Display Products specializes in high-resolution tactical targeting displays, which are installed on tens of thousands of armored vehicles worldwide. They are also used on Navy P-3 antisubmarine and surveillance aircraft as well as the P-3’s new replacement, the P-8.

Paul Bell is president of Palomar Display Products. 2016 was a “very good year” for the company, Bell said in a statement that announced the contract win.

 The SkyGuardian version of the Predator B makes its first flight on Nov. 17. Photo courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.

Predator B Gets a Few Changes, Including Name, For European Market

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., an affiliate of General Atomics, said its new unmanned Predator B aircraft will be called SkyGuardian. The remotely piloted aircraft meets the requirements for flying in European air space. Those requirements are stricter than those for flying over a battlefield. GA-ASI said it plans to deliver the first production aircraft next year.

“The SkyGuardian name reflects the system’s role in protecting ground forces, as well as its performance of nonmilitary missions like border surveillance, maritime patrol and relief over-watch in cases of natural disaster,” said Linden P. Blue, GA-ASI’s chief executive, in a prepared statement.

The company recently hosted dignitaries from nine countries for a briefing and demonstration at Poway and Gray Butte — the spot in the California desert where GA-ASI flies its aircraft. Those in attendance came from Australia, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the United States.

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