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“It’s Not Inconceivable There Will Be a Comparable ‘PREDATOR’ at Sea”

2018 Surface Navy Association Day 2 (January 10) Conference Report

Mönch US correspondent Marty Kauchak is attending the 2018 Surface Navy Association 30th Annual National Symposium in Arlington, Virginia; usa. He files this end of day report with highlights from the exhibition floor and conference rooms.

Some of MONS’ “nuggets” found at defence conferences and exhibitions unexpectedly emerge. Such was the case when reviewing several recent press releases from General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) on its evolving unmanned undersea vehicles contracts, and the agreement of Scott Forney, GA-EMS’ President, to take time from his busy conference schedule to briefly speak about this part of his portfolio.

The EMS group is the second largest business at General Atomics, behind General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), well known to MONS readers as the provider of unmanned air systems and other products to military services. The EMS expanding portfolio includes legacy projects in the military and commercial spaces, in the US and overseas, including the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System for three US Navy CVN-class ships. More recently, EMS publicly acknowledged heretofore, lower profile pursuits, including, designing and delivering an advanced permanent-magnet propulsion motor intended for use in large displacement unmanned undersea vehicles, and providing a lithium-ion fault tolerant battery system for use on a small US DoD small, portable underwater vehicle. Mr. Forney provided on compelling reason for his group to be in this Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) market: “It’s obvious, to us, just like we’ve done on the remotely piloted aircraft, there is going to be a lot of opportunity to design and build systems-of systems for unmanned and manned systems.”

The corporate leader noted his expanding portfolio, from satellites to electronics, raises its awareness of the art-of-the-possible in the undersea domain, provides different perspectives and makes it imminently more qualified to put much additional effort in this space. Indeed, Mr. Forney presented the opportunity to scale and optimise proven technologies between adjacent spaces to advance its evolving undersea technology programmes. In one instance, the EMS group’s commercial electric drive programmes have yielded, “the world’s largest electric drive system for trucks.” The GA official added: “Our truck drives are on Caterpillar trucks around the world. Some of these trucks have to power up to 800t at 40 knots. It’s really a difficult electric drive systems. So, for our control systems and propulsion technologies, it is really not a stretch to say all we are doing is downsizing and making some acoustic improvements for these smaller applications.”

When Mr. Forney looked over other parts of his group’s diverse engineering capabilities and its product portfolio, in particular satellites with their low swaths, solid-state laser weapon systems, railgun systems, and others, he reflected: “You can start imaging what kind of technology you want to put on these submersibles. I think there is no end to what can be.”

GA-EMS is being attentive to the evolving UUV market, as he also pointed out: “We can imagine a much larger play in undersea as the programmes of record start coming together. Starting off with energy and power is a good beginning, but it is fair to say that is not where we want to head, that’s just a piece of it. We’re working with industry on those systems that are important. We have a roadmap. I’m not going to reveal today where we would like to be in some of these programmes. It’s not inconceivable there will be a comparable ‘PREDATOR’ at sea someday.”


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