SAN DIEGO, March 6, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), have completed a study that will enable the MQ-5B Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to carry additional payloads, increasing its effectiveness in providing communications, intelligence and firepower for the U.S. Army.

The three-month research effort, conducted jointly by Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector and the university's Structural Engineering department, tested the aircraft's wing structure and verified that it can endure a higher amount of stress. This means the UAV can carry more weight during takeoff.

"The increased takeoff weight gives the U.S. Army the flexibility to add additional communications, intelligence and weapon payloads to the Hunter, expanding the capabilities of the warfighter," said Aaron Valdes, Northrop Grumman's lead engineer during the partnership. "This flexibility will expand the aircraft's multi-mission role on the battlefield."

"This project was a tremendous opportunity for our aerospace graduate students and our undergraduate students at UCSD," said Dr. John B. Kosmatka, UCSD professor of composite and aerospace structures. "The students were able to witness the test and see how flexible, yet strong these wing structures actually are during these extremely critical flight loads."

Another benefit of the wing structure test was the research team's ability to determine that the aircraft's endurance could be increased by as much as 50 percent, which means the Hunter can remain airborne for more than 18 hours. Greater endurance allows battlefield commanders to collect more intelligence over a larger area during a single flight.

Northrop Grumman's RQ-5A Hunter UAVs have flown more than 19,000 hours on U.S. Army combat missions in the Balkans and Iraq.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With approximately 125,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.