MELBOURNE, Fla., Feb. 21, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has delivered a new airborne broadband capability to the U.S. Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft fleet. The first two aircraft have been equipped with the Internet Protocol (IP) -based Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) communications system, which provides chat, e-mail, web-browsing capabilities and access to the U.S. Department of Defense secure network.

The BLOS capability upgrade was developed in response to an Urgent Operational Need (UON) program request received in September to support the warfighter's requirement to communicate on a global scale using Internet-based technology. Included in the BLOS product are critical information assurance (IA) designs, which ensure the integrity, security and correct accessibility of classified communications.

"This is the first airborne implementation of IA concepts in a communications design," said Stu Schreiber, Northrop Grumman's BLOS program manager. "We were able to create a robust airborne mobile network that can provide IP addressing across the fleet, communicate globally and ensure security and information integrity."

"The BLOS capability will allow Joint STARS operators to connect with personnel anywhere in the world using either data or voice communications via existing satellite and IP infrastructures," said Schreiber.

"As an UON, the program was given the highest priority within the Joint STARS community. Our development team pulled together a detailed design, parts acquisition of more than 500 different items, developed software and customized networking protocols, and integrated the system within four months," said Dave Nagy, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance programs. "This precedent-setting effort also included a robust product development schedule, where system architecture, hardware design, software development, customer design reviews and flight testing were all completed within four months.

"This type of system design and development (SDD) program would normally take 20-22 months to complete, but the entire effort was condensed into a nine month effort through an incredible level of contractor and government focus and dedication. I'm proud of the work this team did to bring this capability online for the warfighter," he concluded.

To ensure earliest possible availability of the system to the warfighter, concurrent installation of BLOS retrofit kits has been initiated while the team simultaneously completes elements of the SDD design, which were deferred to accelerate the fielding of an initial operational capability.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems sector is the prime contractor for the E-8C Joint STARS development and whole-life support programs. Joint STARS is the world's most advanced wide-area airborne ground-surveillance, targeting and battle-management system. It detects, locates, classifies, tracks, and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links with Joint and Component command and control elements.

All 17 Joint STARS aircraft are assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, a "total-force blended wing," based at Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Ga. The wing comprises active-duty Air Force, Army and Air National Guard personnel.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $32 billion 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:  Jim Stratford
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (321) 726-7526