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San Diego
Thursday, May 30, 2024

France Asks to Buy GA Tech

The U.S. government has announced a potential foreign sale of General Atomics’ advanced aircraft handling equipment for aircraft carrier ships.

The U.S. State Department approved a possible sale of the technology, abbreviated EMALS and AAG, to France, for an estimated cost of $1.32 billion. As yet there is no contract.

The U.S. Navy is already a client. General Atomics has produced its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for the carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and is working to supply three successors, the John F. Kennedy, Enterprise and Doris Miller. EMALS is a departure from the standard steam-powered catapults used on the aircraft carriers typically seen in San Diego. Instead, it uses linear motors — technology that is used on certain roller coasters.

GA is producing complementary technology to trap an aircraft as it lands on the flight deck. Exterior appearances have not changed; a landing aircraft still snags a cable with its tailhook. The interior machinery, however, is different. General Atomics has produced a 21st century, software-controlled system to absorb the momentum of the aircraft and slow it to a stop.

The machinery on the Gerald Ford has already successfully launched and recovered aircraft more than 8,100 times, according to the Navy.

GA’s nontraditional machinery still has its critics, including those in the Navy and Congress. President Donald Trump was famously critical of the technology.

France, however, is looking seriously at it. It has requested to buy one launch system and one arresting gear system for its next-generation aircraft carrier program, according to a Dec. 21 announcement from the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

U.S. Navy Issues Contracts

In related news, GA received two contracts for U.S. aircraft carriers at the end of 2021.

On Dec. 28, the Navy awarded General Atomics a $69.8 million contract for engineering and program management services related to EMALS and AAG for the final carrier of the Ford class, the future USS Doris Miller. Substantially all the work (99.6%) under the contract will be performed in San Diego.

Prime contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE: HII) cut the first piece of steel for the 97,000-ton Doris Miller during a ceremony on Aug. 25, 2021. Its Newport News Shipbuilding Division plans to lay the keel for ship — designated by the Navy as carrier No. 81 — in 2026. Final delivery to the Navy is expected in 2032.

Doris Miller was a Black sailor and a hero of World War II. His action aboard a targeted battleship in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor earned him the Navy Cross. This will be the second ship named after Miller.

Separately, on Dec. 29, the Navy awarded GA a $14.5 million order as part of a previously issued basic ordering agreement. Under the deal, GA will provide facilities, labor, material and logistics services to correct certain deficiencies, identified during prior qualification cycles, to equipment on the USS Gerald R. Ford and at testing sites.

General Atomics


CEO: Neal Blue

HEADQUARTERS: Torrey Pines Mesa

BUSINESS: Defense contractor and technology company

EMPLOYEES: More than 15,000


NOTABLE: The company was founded as a division of General Dynamics in 1955. Following several ownership changes, brothers Neal and Linden S. Blue bought it in 1986.

CONTACT: (858) 455-3000


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