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How China got its EMALS

By Saurabh Misra - posted Thursday, 7 December 2017

Last month two articles were published in the South China Morning Post (1st November and 19th November) reporting that China had developed its own Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) for aircraft carriers. The articles elaborate on how China's EMALS is an improved and 2nd (next) generation version of the EMALS used in United States Ford Class Aircraft Carriers built by General Atomics.

This article tells how this has been possible for China in such a short period of time (2-3 years), while the United States took nearly 25 years in developing and perfecting the system beginning in the 1990s and ending in 2017 with the launch of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Aircraft Carrier.

General Atomics Electromagnetic Launch Systems (GA-EMS) is the sole provider of of Advance Arressting Gear (AAG) and EMALS for Ford-class carriers, including CVN 78 and the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), which is currently under construction, and the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80).


Even though there are still lingering questions being raised about the usefulness of EMALS, GA-EMS has already been awarded contracts for maintaining the systems in CVN 78 and for developing the Systems for future CVN79 and CVN80.

GA- EMS is to work with several other prime contractors in the EMALS program. The list of prime contractors and their contributions in the development of Systems for EMALS and AAG is given below-

  • GA's Electromagnetic Systems Division – Electromagnetic System Design and Fabrication, System; Integration, Power Electronics and Controls, Software, and Logistics;
  • Alion Science and Technology – Specialty Engineering;
  • Kato Engineering – Energy Storage Systems Manufacture;
  • L3 Communications' Applied Technologies Pulse Sciences – Power Electronics;
  • QinetiQ's Foster Miller, Inc. – Control Systems, System Health Monitoring;
  • STV, Inc. – Test Site Design/Integration, Naval System Logistics;
  • University of Texas at Austin Center for Electromechanics – Energy Storage Systems Design and Analysis.

General Atomics' related Advanced Arresting Gear team, which is part of the larger ALRE program and can be ordered under EMALS contracts, include:

  • GA's Electromagnetic Systems Division – Systems Integration, Cable Drum and Cable Shock Absorber, Power Electronics/ Controls/ Software, Arresting Controls Software, System Health Monitoring, Test Site Design and Integration;
  • Alion Science and Technology – Shipboard Integration, Thermal Systems, Electric Power;
  • Curtiss-Wright Electro-Mechanical Corporation – Electric Motor;
  • ESCO Corporation – Water Twister and Mechanical Brake Systems;
  • ITT Corporation – Naval System Logistics;
  • QinetiQ's Foster Miller, Inc. – Control Workstations;

These prime contractors in the EMALS program used sub-systems like processors, transistors, transformers, inverter ,etc provided by Freescale Semiconductors (now NXP). While some of these sub-system were purchased commercially of the shelf (COTs) while others were developed especially for the EMALS program by Freescale (NXP) along with these prime contractors.


The following dates and events demonstrate how the use of these sub systems provided by Freescale (NXP) to the prime contractors of the EMALS program has severely and irreparably compromised it :

1948- Freescale was one of the first semiconductor companies in the world, having started as a division of Motorola in Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

1968: NASA's Apollo Program was particularly significant for hundreds of employees involved in designing, testing and producing its electronics.

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About the Author

Saurabh Misra is a legal professional practising as an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India, New Delhi who occasionally writes on matters concerning the economy, defence and foreign policy.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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