EL SEGUNDO, Calif., June 11, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) today congratulated F-35 Lightning II prime contractor Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) for successfully completing the inaugural flight of the first F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jet.

The flight of the F-35 aircraft designated BF-1 commenced today at 10:17 a.m. CDT from Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Texas, and lasted approximately 45 minutes. It was piloted by BAE Systems test pilot Graham Tomlinson.

"This historic flight marks the second stage in fulfilling the vision of an international, three-variant family of next-generation fighters derived from a common design that can be serviced and maintained by a common infrastructure worldwide," said Mark A. Tucker, vice president of tactical systems and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "We applaud the international collaboration that has enabled a British pilot to be the first to fly a new jet developed by a multi-national team to serve the needs of the U.S. Marine Corps, the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and the Italian Air Force and Navy."

Eventually, added Tucker, the three F-35 variants -- the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL); F-35B STOVL and the F-35C carrier variant -- will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for at least 11 nations, making the Lightning II program one of the most cost-effective aircraft development programs in military history.

Northrop Grumman serves as a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 global industry team. The company's main areas of involvement include: producing and integrating the aircraft's center fuselage; producing the radar and other key avionics including electro-optical and communications subsystems; developing mission systems and mission-planning software; developing pilot and maintenance training system courseware; and developing logistic support hardware and software. BAE Systems is the other principal member of the F-35 industry team.

In recent months, Northrop Grumman has accomplished several key F-35 milestones, adding momentum to the program's steady transition from the system development and demonstration phase to the flight test and production phases. The company has delivered the center fuselage for the Air Force's first production representative F-35A CTOL aircraft; begun assembly of the center fuselage for the first production Lightning II jet; and begun training its international suppliers to produce key F-35 parts and subassemblies. The company is also currently assembling the center fuselage for the first F-35C aircraft.

In March, Northrop Grumman completed the initial flight-testing of the F-35's Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO DAS), a passive, multi-functional sensor system. EO DAS detects aircraft, missiles, and surface targets at long ranges in all directions around the F-35, and warns the pilot of potential threats. The testing was completed using the company's BAC 1-11 test bed aircraft, a flying laboratory that provides an avionics environment similar to the F-35. Northrop Grumman is also continuing to flight test the F-35's AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array fire control radar and its advanced operational modes.

Earlier in the year, Northrop Grumman successfully demonstrated the software-defined radios that provide core communication, navigation and identification (CNI) functions on Lockheed Martin's Cooperative Avionics Test Bed aircraft. This flexible, real-time reconfigurable system will fly on the F-35 STOVL aircraft designated BF-4 in 2009 and will be expanded to provide more than 30 CNI functions, including advanced data networking capabilities. The AA-1 aircraft has successfully flown a more basic CNI system for early testing, as did BF-1.

Northrop Grumman is a global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Brooks McKinney, APR
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (310) 331-6610
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