NAS PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Oct. 29, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Integrated Systems sector last week conducted four successful flight tests of the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle system at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
The first test occurred only one week after flight test assets and personnel were moved here from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., site of the first eight flights. Northrop Grumman has conducted 12 successful flights of the P-3 vehicle since the test series began in May.
Northrop Grumman and the Navy moved the test program to Patuxent River's Webster Field facility to increase the number and frequency of test flights and to be closer to the Navy's Fire Scout program office for initial flights of the recently completed E-1 air vehicle -- the first to be built in the full production configuration. Flight testing will continue at Webster Field through the end of this year. Both P-3 and E-1 are production-configured vehicles.
Fire Scout is in development and low-rate initial production by Northrop Grumman as a force multiplier for Navy forces at sea and Marine Corps forces ashore. The Fire Scout program is funded in the 2003 defense budget for completion of the development and low-rate initial production system and developmental testing, culminating next year with the delivery to the Navy of five air vehicles with payloads and four ground control stations.
Last week's tests included the first overwater flight and the first vehicle command/control by a Navy air vehicle operator. During last week's tests, the air vehicle climbed to a maximum altitude of 1,500 feet AGL at an air speed of 30 knots GS. One flight was conducted in a light rain.
This current series of flights is focusing on autonomous flight, modular mission payload performance and the performance of the Navy ground control station (GCS). In particular, the tests are demonstrating GCS performance in receiving digital streaming video over the tactical common data link (TCDL) from the Fire Scout's advanced payload, an electro-optical/infrared sensor that includes a laser designator/rangefinder.
During these missions, the electro-optical and infrared sensors, provided by Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, Baltimore, Md., have demonstrated a full range of capabilities to locate, identify and track a mix of targets including vehicles, buildings and geographic features. In addition, the laser rangefinder was employed to evaluate the precision target location feature of the payload and vehicle management system.
Flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, the Fire Scout air vehicle can provide intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance with pinpoint accuracy. This system gives 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.
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 the laser designator. Fire Scout was designed to respond to Navy and Marine Corps emerging requirements. A complete system includes three UAVs, two ground control stations, a data link suite and modular mission payloads.
The Navy GCS is a S-280 shelter provided by Wenzlau Engineering, South Pasadena, Calif. The Fire Scout TCDL, which is supplied by L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City, Utah, consists of directional and omni-directional antennas on the air vehicle and at the ground control station.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems 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