SAN DIEGO, Nov. 16, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has opened a new system integration laboratory (SIL) to help identify any potential hardware, software or system cost issues related to the development of its X-47B combat unmanned air vehicle long before the first air vehicle flies.
The company-funded facility, which is located at Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems unit in San Diego, opened October 15. It will support the company's current work on a $1.04 billion contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the operational assessment phase of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) Concept Demonstration program.
"Having a SIL is all about reducing technical and financial risk," said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman's J-UCAS program manager. "Since we don't have pilots to flight test UAVs, we rely heavily on the SIL to test every aspect of a UAV before it flies, from single lines of software code to complete system testing. For the X-47B, we will even have two 'iron birds' in the lab - that is, two systems with nearly every aspect of the final air vehicle except the engine. We want to make sure every aspect of our system is ready for flight before it reaches the flight line."
The centerpiece for Northrop Grumman's new SIL is a 2,600-square-foot system center, which contains workstations for operational flight program development, mission software development, software robustness testing and integration, and a crew rehearsal room for performing simulated mission scenarios and contingency training for engineers and air vehicle operators.
Adjacent to the system center is a 3,000-square foot laboratory space that will support the systems center and allow engineers, software developers and testers to develop and qualify flight software as well as integrate all vehicle subsystems.
Northrop Grumman's current J-UCAS contract with DARPA calls for it to produce and flight-test threeX-47B unmanned demonstration vehicles with associated mission-control stations and logistical support elements. Flight demonstrations of the air vehicles are expected to begin in 2007.
The U.S. Department of Defense established the J-UCAS program in the fall of 2003 to demonstrate the technical feasibility, military utility and operational value of developing a network of high performance, survivable, and weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles. These air vehicles will conduct a variety of 21st-century combat missions for both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy including precision targeting and strike; persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; and electronic attack.
Northrop Grumman's efforts to design, develop and produce an unmanned combat air system that satisfies the operational requirements of both services is managed by the company's Integrated Systems sector. Its J-UCAS concept builds on the company's highly successful X-47A, Pegasus, program, and extensive experience with autonomous flight control systems, including thousands of flight hours by its combat-proven RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance system and the RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned system.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use on networks. For its government and civil customers worldwide, Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military and homeland defense missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.
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