SAN DIEGO, April 16, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Integrated Systems sector continued its successful flight testing of the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle in March with the first flight fully operated from the U.S. Marine Corps' (USMC) S-788, a HMMWV-mounted ground control station (GCS).
Conducted at the Webster Field annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., the flight fulfilled a key program test objective of demonstrating Fire Scout operation by both U.S. Navy and USMC ground control stations. Fire Scout flew its first flight operated by the Navy's S-280 GCS Feb. 10.
The S-788-operated flight was one of two Fire Scout flights conducted on the same day. The first flight, a 20-minute demonstration flight for senior U.S. Army aviation leadership, was operated from the Navy's S-280 GCS. Less than an hour later, the Fire Scout was launched for a functional check flight under the control of the S-788 GCS. The back-to-back test flights marked the first time that Fire Scout flights were operated from Marine Corps and Navy ground control stations on the same day.
"The short turnaround time between flights and the ease of switching from Navy ground control to Marine Corps ground control provided a compelling demonstration of the robustness and flexibility of the Fire Scout system design," said T. Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout program manager. "These test results reinforce our confidence in Fire Scout's ability to provide high-value support for critical Navy and Marine Corps missions."
During the Marine Corps-controlled flight, the S-788 GCS used its tactical control datalink to uplink payload command and control to Fire Scout and to downlink imagery. The ARC-210 datalink was used for air vehicle command and control. Use of this command and control software continues to reduce risk as the system is prepared to qualify and test the tactical control system software during flight test later this spring.
As in all previous Fire Scout flight tests, the USMC and Navy test flights were fully autonomous missions that included vertical takeoff, accurate navigation, full payload operation and return to a predetermined hover point in preparation for landing, all without operator intervention.
The Fire Scout payload is supplied by Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, Baltimore, Md. It consists of electro-optical and infrared sensors and a laser designator/rangefinder, which provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery and targeting data.
The March test flights came on the heels of another significant Fire Scout program milestone--an extensive review of all Fire Scout technical manuals. Northrop Grumman recently validated the Fire Scout organization's technical manual procedures for removing and installing air vehicle components at Webster Field. Technical manual validation is a contractor-conducted element of the technical manual development process. The process validates the accuracy of task steps and associated graphics, as well as the support resources required to perform those tasks.
Fire Scout technical manuals are being developed by Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems unit as Class III Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs). The IETMs are displayed to the maintainer in digital format, on a ruggedized laptop computer, via Internet Explorer. The Fire Scout IETM represents the first Class III IETM to be developed to comply with the Navy's new MIL-HDBK-3001.
Fire Scout's ongoing flight series at Webster Field has successfully 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 demonstrate weapons targeting are being considered for later this year.
Flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, Fire Scout can employ its advanced payload to provide intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and precise targeting information with pinpoint accuracy. The Fire Scout's communications suite allows simultaneous voice/data communications relay much farther than current "line of sight" 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 its laser designator.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise with the capabilities to design, develop, produce and support fully missionized integrated systems and subsystems. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services in support of chosen segments within the broad market areas of battlespace awareness, command and control systems and integrated combat systems.
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CONTACT: Cynthia Curiel Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (858) 518-9722