SAN DIEGO, Sept. 15, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- During recent flight tests, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) successfully demonstrated key elements of the Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (UCAR)'s autonomous vehicle management system, evaluating hardware and software that will allow the UCAR system to operate autonomously but in cooperation with manned and unmanned teams. The vehicle management system serves as the rotorcraft's functional "brain."
The UCAR program is funded jointly by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army. Northrop Grumman is currently competing for Phase III of the program, which will include fabrication and testing of two UCAR demonstrator systems.
The flight tests, conducted Aug. 2 at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, used a company-owned Yamaha R-MAX unmanned helicopter as a UCAR surrogate. The test illustrated the company's ongoing commitment to reduce development risks for the system
"The vehicle management system used by UCAR was originally developed to support future updates to the U.S. Air Force's RQ-4 Global Hawk aerial reconnaissance system, which has been successfully deployed in theater to support the war on terrorism," said Greg Zwernemann, Northrop Grumman's UCAR program director. "We've used that successful architecture experience to develop and refine the vehicle management system for both the UCAR and the X-47B Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems."
The recent flight tests in the R-MAX were the latest in a series of company-funded activities aimed at reducing risk for the UCAR program.
In July, the company successfully completed a preliminary design review and conducted a challenging demonstration of its manned/unmanned (MUM) command-and-control system for senior DARPA, Army, and U.S. Navy customers.
On Aug. 12, the company performed an expanded MUM teaming demonstration in the Washington, D.C. location of Northrop Grumman's Cyber Warfare Integration Network. The demonstration included a "system of systems" link to the company's Crew Area Virtual Environment in Melbourne, Fla., which is a functional mock-up of the Air Force's evolving E-10 battle management command and control (BMC2) subsystem. During the simulation, the mock-BMC2 subsystem fed off-board target cues to the UCAR system. The teaming demonstration also established that UCAR could exploit the company's proposed advanced information architecture technology to provide imagery and information to soldiers on the ground.
"The MUM demonstration proved that Northrop Grumman's UCAR autonomy solution puts us well on the way to reaching key technical objectives set by our DARPA and Army customers," added Zwernemann.
UCAR incorporates advanced autonomy software that allows it to perform "dull, dirty and dangerous" missions collaboratively with manned/unmanned teams. An Army air mission commander in an Apache helicopter would normally provide high-level tasking or instructions to a team of UCARs. The UCAR system autonomously collects data using its offensive and defensive sensor suite and off-board sensors and uses that data to identify and, if approved by the air mission commander, fire at targets.
The air vehicle, as envisioned, will use a large internal payload of Hellfire missiles, common missiles or advanced precision-kill weapon-system rockets to fire at targets at maximum standoff ranges. It will use an advanced 25mm gun at closer ranges. UCAR's integrated avionics and communications suite also allows it to connect easily to the networked environment envisioned for the military's emerging joint operational architecture.
The company plans to continue its flight test program during the next phase of the UCAR program using three Yamaha R-MAX rotorcraft. This testing will demonstrate collaborative operations among multiple surrogate UCARs and manned helicopters. DARPA is currently in source selection for Phase III.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use in networks. For its government and civil customers worldwide, Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military and homeland defense missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.
CONTACT: Cynthia Curiel Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (858) 618-4355 office (858) 405-7989 cell firstname.lastname@example.org