By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – After successfully testing the next-generation aircraft-launching system for the U.S. Navy, General Atomics says it is expanding the facility where that technology is being built.
On Saturday, an F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter was launched for the first time using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, developed by General Atomics.
Key components of the system were built in the company’s advanced manufacturing plant in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South.
“This event marks the first time in over 50 years that the Navy has been able to launch a carrier-based aircraft using a system other than steam,” said GA Electromagnetic Systems Division Vice President R. Scott Forney III. “This milestone is an extraordinary accomplishment for General Atomics’ EMALS program.”
Forney also said that the company will announce another expansion to its Tupelo facility next month.
“We have had five expansions there and we’re going to have another one,” he said. “That will give us 122,000 square feet. We started at 26,000 square feet.”
Forney said he “brags” on Tupelo often to his colleagues across the country.
“It’s our center of excellence,” he said.
General Atomics employs 60 to 65 people at any given time, although many of them are engineers who rotate in and out of the facility.
Greg Giachelli, the vice president of existing industry for the Community Development Foundation, said General Atomics has invested more than $12 million in its state-of-the-art facility in Tupelo, Giachelli said.
It is there that General Atomics is developing key components of the EMALS program.
Until Saturday’s successful test, the Navy has launched aircraft from aircraft carriers with a steam-powered catapult system used on the current generation of aircraft carriers.
As the EMALS prime contractor, GA was awarded a contract to produce the new catapult in June 2009. The first components of the EMALS equipment are scheduled for delivery next year.
EMALS will first be installed in the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, the next-generation aircraft carrier that will replace the Nimitz-class carriers. The Gerald R. Ford is scheduled to go into service in 2015.
“Everything is precisely on schedule,” Forney said.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.