SAN DIEGO, Oct. 15, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Integrated Systems sector has successfully conducted the first in-flight download of real-time sensor imagery from the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle.
The three test flights were conducted Oct. 11 at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, Calif. The tactical common data link was used to download the data to the Navy's Fire Scout ground control station.
The flights coincided with a visit to the China Lake range by John Young, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Young observed the third test flight following a briefing on the status of the Fire Scout program.
The Fire Scout system is in development and low-rate initial production by Northrop Grumman as a force multiplier for Navy forces at sea and Marine Corps forces ashore.
The Fire Scout tactical common data link, which is supplied by L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City, Utah, consists of both directional and omni directional antennas on the air vehicle and at the ground control station. The data link (Ku band) has a narrow band uplink for vehicle and payload control, and a wide band downlink for digital streaming video and data from the payload (EO/IR/LDRF) to the ground control station and on to the C4I architecture.
The ground control station for the Navy is a S-280 shelter provided by Wenzlau Engineering, South Pasadena, Calif. It consists of an air vehicle operator station, a payload operator station, four ARC-210 UHF/VHF radios, the tactical common data link, digital and analog recording capability, full environmental climate control, C4I connectivity and shipboard compatibility. For the Marine Corps, a TCS ground control station mounted on a HMVVV ("humvee") is being deployed.
As in previous Fire Scout flight tests, the preprogrammed autonomous mission included vertical takeoff, accurate navigation and return to a predetermined hover point in preparation for landing -- all without operator intervention.
In Friday's tests, the Fire Scout first flew for 30 minutes through 32 total waypoints at the China Lake range. During this flight, the vehicle climbed to a maximum altitude of 4,000 feet MSL at an air speed of 30 knots GS. On the second and third flights, Fire Scout flew for 15 minutes through 21 total waypoints while again reaching 4,000 feet MSL and 30 knots CAS. The last two flights focused on payload and data link performance.
During all the missions, the system's electro-optical and infrared sensors, provided by Northrop Grumman's Electronics Systems sector, Baltimore, Md., demonstrated a full range of capabilities to locate, identify and track a mix of targets including vehicles, buildings and geographic features. In addition, the laser rangefinder was employed to evaluate the precision target location feature of the payload and vehicle management system.
Following the download of payload imagery and data to the Navy's ground control station using the tactical common data link, the imagery and data was ported to Northrop Grumman's mission control room, a large control van with full telemetry employed for early developmental testing. In subsequent flight tests, the Navy's ground control station will assume full vehicle and payload control in addition to receipt of payload information.
The ongoing flight series includes a number of important tests and has demonstrated the system's ability to take off, fly, navigate and land autonomously and collect imagery from its onboard sensor payload. Additional flight tests to support engineering and manufacturing development are planned this fall and winter. Flight tests to demonstrate weapons targeting and delivery as well as shipboard landings are also being considered.
The Fire Scout system is in development for the Navy and Marine Corps. Flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, it employs an advanced payload with an electro-optical/infrared sensor including a laser designator/rangefinder to provide intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance with pinpoint accuracy. This demonstrated system provides military decision-makers real-time information and targeting of enemy resources and personnel on the ground. The Fire Scout's communications suite allows simultaneous voice/data relay much farther than the "line of sight" limits of current systems.
Fully autonomous, Fire Scout can fly high above deployed Marines to watch for threats within 150 nautical miles of the ground control station. The system then directs Navy and Marine weapons accurately to the target with precise target location coordinates or the laser designator. Fire Scout was designed to respond to Navy and Marine Corps emerging requirements and to replace the aging Pioneer. A complete system includes three UAVs, two ground control stations, a data link suite and modular mission payloads.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace systems integration enterprise. Integrated Systems has the capabilities to design, develop, integrate, produce and support complete systems, as well as airframe subsystems, for airborne surveillance and battle management, early warning, airborne electronic warfare and air combat aircraft. It is also integrating these capabilities for emerging network centric warfare concepts.
CONTACT: Cynthia Curiel Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (858) 618-4355