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January 16, 2006

Lighter, quieter power generators for Navy ships

A Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)-led team has been selected by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to begin a design of a 40-megawatt (MW) high-temperature superconductor (HTS) generator intended to provide a smaller, lighter and quieter main power source for future surface combatants.

Under this initial nine-month contract, Northrop Grumman Marine Systems, teamed with American Superconductor Corporation (Nasdaq:AMSC), will complete a concept design and explore different configurations of the HTS generator while assessing the impact on generator characteristics associated with voltage, phase-count, pole-count and cooling selection.

The Navy has an option to exercise an additional 3-year contract worth $3.9 million to continue the studies that will help evaluate differences from conventional generator designs while validating weight, size, acoustic performance and cost for a 40-MW high-temperature superconductor generator.

"High-power weapon and sensor systems demand increased power," said Carol Armstrong, deputy vice president for Northrop Grumman's Marine Systems business unit. "As the U.S. Navy transitions to an all-electric surface ship, superconductivity will be a key enabling technology for achieving these power density goals."

"HTS generators can be at least half the size and weight of currently available generators of equal rating, while providing low-noise acoustic signatures and increased system stability," said Armstrong.

As the program lead, Northrop Grumman will provide trade studies, generator concept design, main turbine generator concept design, systems engineering, systems modeling and integration tasks with the work performed at the company's Marine Systems facility in Sunnyvale, Calif.

American Superconductor based in Westborough, Mass., will provide trade studies, determine the electromagnetic parameters for the generator concept design, study superconducting materials, and provide the rotor, exciter and cryogenic systems concept design for the generator.

"HTS technology is attracting strong attention for a broad range of military and commercial applications," said Greg Yurek, CEO of American Superconductor(AMSC). "In addition to future U.S. Navy generators, HTS wire is currently powering ship propulsion motors, electric grid power cables, synchronous condensers and specialty magnets."