EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 19, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- In an effort to improve the operational effectiveness of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the rest of the Lockheed Martin F-35 team have demonstrated the loading of weapons by military ordnance personnel with a full-scale model of the aircraft's internal weapons bay. Involving operational users at this stage in the design of aircraft components is unprecedented for a military aircraft program.

The demonstration was conducted Dec. 1-4 at the headquarters of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector in El Segundo. Ordnance crews from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines loaded mockups of various weapons in the weapons bay model and provided evaluations of the process to the F-35 design team. Members of the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy were on hand to observe the demonstration in preparation for a similar exercise in the United Kingdom early next year.

The F-35 JSF is a stealthy, supersonic aircraft designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and allied defense forces worldwide.

"Providing an opportunity for military users to give feedback at this point in the program allows us to refine and evaluate the weapons bay design to make sure it meets the individual services' needs," said Steve Briggs, Northrop Grumman vice president and F-35 program manager. "Traditionally, military aircraft programs haven't conducted demonstrations like this until after the first aircraft was built, which limited opportunities for military personnel to provide meaningful input. This proactive interaction with operational users is another example of the new paradigm the F-35 program has brought to the defense industry."

According to U.S. Navy Capt. David Prater, weapons-integration team lead for the JSF Program Office, the weapons-bay model is a key risk-reduction tool for the program. "The weapons-load crews and ordnance specialists developed procedures, demonstrated loading techniques and provided invaluable feedback to the F-35 design team," he said. "This tool served its purpose extremely well."

The demonstrations were designed to ensure that the F-35 weapons bay can accommodate a variety of internally carried ordnance and that ground crews can load it easily. The weapons represented were the joint standoff weapon, joint direct attack munition, wind-corrected munition dispensers, laser-guided bombs and the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, a principal member of the Lockheed Martin F-35 development team, is responsible for design and integration of the F-35 center fuselage section, including integration of the subsystems; development of a substantial portion of F-35 mission systems software; ground and flight test support; development of flight control software for the Navy carrier variant; development support in the area of signature/low observables, and support of modeling and simulation activities.

Northrop Grumman will assemble F-35 center fuselages at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., then ship them to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, for final assembly.

In addition to Integrated Systems, three other sectors of Northrop Grumman support the F-35 program. Electronic Systems, Baltimore, Md., provides the fire control radar, the electro-optical distributed aperture system and, with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, the electro-optical targeting system. Information Technology, Herndon, Va., provides system and software engineering support for the mission planning system, and Space Technology, San Diego, Calif., provides the integrated communications, navigation and identification avionics suite.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $25 billion global defense company, headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With approximately 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

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          Northrop Grumman Corporation
          (703) 898-5353