NAS PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Dec. 18, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned system has achieved a series of milestones at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., over the last five weeks, including significant expansion of its flight envelope and the initial flight of the first engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) air vehicle.

The Fire Scout system is in development and low-rate initial production for the U.S. Navy by Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector as a force multiplier for naval forces at sea and Marine Corps forces ashore.

During the Nov. 14 envelope expansion flight, the P-3 demonstrator unmanned air vehicle (UAV) reached an altitude of 5,500 feet and flew at 60 knots (true air speed). Previously, the vehicle had reached an altitude of 3,800 feet and a speed of 30 knots.

During the Nov. 22 first flight of the E-1 EMD vehicle, the UAV demonstrated fully autonomous flight from engine start through shutdown.

The joint Navy/Northrop Grumman flight test team has now conducted more than 16 flights since October and more than 25 since testing began in May. The P-3 and E-1 air vehicles are both fully production configured. The latest flights included testing of the tactical common data link, demonstrating downlink of imagery to the Navy S-280 ground control station and uplink command and control during ground operations.

Flight testing resumed at NAS Patuxent River this week. Testing to date has focused primarily on full system autonomy from engine start to landing and engine shutdown, as well as ease of use by the air vehicle ground operators. The test team has included the participation of Navy and Marine Corps personnel as primary mission operators controlling the vehicle and its sensor payload on several flights.

All flight tests have been fully autonomous from engine start and takeoff through landing and engine shutdown. Autonomous control significantly decreases the chances of ground operator or "pilot" error since the operator can override the preprogrammed mission plan but is not required to manually control the air vehicle. That is especially important during shipboard landing operations under high sea state conditions.

Flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, Fire Scout 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 can provide 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 that have lower maximum altitude ceilings.

Fully autonomous, Fire Scout was designed to meet mission requirements to fly high above deployed Marines and watch for threats within 150 nautical miles of the ground control station. The system would then direct Navy and Marine weapons accurately to the target with precise target location coordinates or the laser designator. Fire Scout has the flexibility to meet emerging Navy and Marine Corps requirements.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., 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.

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  CONTACT:  Cynthia Curiel
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (858) 618-4355