General Atomics

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General Atomics
Legal form
Foundation 1955
Seat San Diego, California, United StatesVereinigte Staaten
Management James Neal Blue[1]
Number of employees 8.000[2]

General Atomics(GA) is a US high-technology company with activities primarily in the fields of nuclear energy and armaments. The company is headquartered in San Diego. Currently (2016), the company has about 8,000 employees.

Offices are currently (2016) in Berlin, Dresden, Adelaide, Washington, D.C., Denver, Los Alamos, Oklahoma City, Tupelo, Ogden.


The company was founded on 18 July 1955 as the nuclear energy division of General Dynamics. The first president and initiator of the foundation was Frederic de Hoffmann. In 1967 they were sold to Gulf Oil and renamed “Gulf General Atomic”. From 1973 to 1982 Shell had a stake in the company, during which time it was called “General Atomic Company”. From 1982 they were called “GA Technologies Inc.” In 1984 the parent company Gulf was acquired by Chevron. In 1986, brothers Linden Blue (b. 1936) and James Neal Blue (b. 1935) of Denver acquired the company for $60 million, and from then on it was called General Atomics. Chairman and CEO of GA is James Neal Blue.

Because the company is privately held, it is not required to publish sales figures and does not do so. Predator drones, however, account for a large portion of its sales. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that about $5.7 billion would be invested in 144 Predator over five years.[3] That same year, the Predator received Initial Operating Capability status from the US Air Force. James Neal Blue stated the sales share of the Predator drone in 2005[4] with about one third.

Being heavily dependent on Department of Defense contracts, the company invests heavily in lobbying in Washington, D.C. In 2006, it came under criticism for having a disproportionate share of travel sponsorship of U.S. congressmen (about $660,000 from 2000 to mid-2005, compared to, say, Boeing’s official $13,000).[5]

The company started with nuclear energy projects and developed the TRIGA nuclear reactor in the 1950s. At that time they were also responsible for Project Orion. From 1959, they developed special graphite high-temperature reactors (HTGR), but they were unable to compete with light water reactors. In 2007, they developed helium-cooled nuclear reactors (Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor, GT-MHR). They also operate one of the largest nuclear fusion energy programs in the nuclear industry (research on tokamaks since the 1960s, in the 2000s at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility) and are involved in radioactive waste handling. In 2010, they unveiled the Energy Multiplier Module (EM2), a smaller version of the GT-MHR designed to produce energy from nuclear waste.

On 30 September 2020, an agreement was signed that all business activities related to maintenance work for private aircraft and military aircraft as well as the manufacture and maintenance of the Dornier 228 NG will be taken over by RUAG.[6]


The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems division manufactures the Predator drone and is developing the EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) aircraft carrier catapult, which is intended to replace the steam-powered catapults on aircraft carriers and has already been successfully tested. The Advanced Arresting Gear System (AAG) is designed to modernize the brake cable system for aircraft carriers. The division also developed a railgun for air and missile defense, maglevs (magnetically levitated systems and linear drives), radar systems (Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar) and mining technology, e.g. electric motors for mining dump trucks.

Organisational structure

  • Electromagnetic Systems Group (GA-EMS)
  • Energy group
    • Controlled Fusion
    • Fission (nuclear reactors from Triga to Next Generation Advanced Reactors). TRIGA International is a joint venture with CERCA, which belongs to Areva.
    • Advanced Computing (including San Diego Supercomputer Center)

Associated Companies:

  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI)
    • Aircraft Systems Group
    • Reconnaissance Systems Group
  • General Atomics Systems Integration (GA-SI), service provider for drones and maintenance of ageing aircraft stocks especially for the US armed forces
  • ConverDyn, for the production of uranium hexafluoride (UHF).
  • Cotter Corporation, a mining company founded in 1956 (originally uranium mining in New Mexico), acquired in 2000
  • Heathgate Resources Pty, Ltd, founded in 1990, operator of the Beverley uranium mine in Australia
  • Nuclear Fuels Corporation (NFC), established in 1991.
  • Rio Grande Resources Corporation, manages GA’s mining operations (uranium and others), which they acquired from Chevron Resources in 1991.
  • Spezialtechnik Dresden GmbH (STD), e.g. recultivation of old brown coal and uranium ore mining areas, prefabricated concrete parts, ammunition reprocessing.
    • GBM track construction mechanics Brandenburg

Individual references

  1. Yasha Levine: The Billionaire Brothers Behind America’s Predator Drones – And Their Very Strange Past. In: AlterNet. 24.April 2013 (Online).
  2. About
  3. San Diego Union Tribune, March 2005
  4. Defense News, May 2005
  5. Center of Public Integrity on GA-sponsored trips by members of Congress in 2006
  6. RUAG sells MRO business and Dornier 228 production in Oberpfaffenhofen.In: 16 October 2020, retrieved 17 October 2020.