SAN DIEGO, May 9, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has placed a purchase order with Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Va., to produce the company's first Hunter II unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The order for the unmanned aircraft, which will serve as a test and demonstration system, reflects Northrop Grumman's commitment to the medium-altitude endurance UAV market. It will also help mature the manufacturing processes needed to ensure Northrop Grumman can respond quickly and cost-effectively to emerging UAV requirements for military and commercial customers.

Scott J. Seymour, president of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector, presented the purchase order to Aurora Flight Sciences President John S. Langford during a ceremony April 29 at an Aurora manufacturing facility in Starkville, Miss., where the Hunter II will be built.

Hunter II is Northrop Grumman's offering for the U.S. Army's current Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAV competition. If the company wins the competition, Aurora Flight Sciences will manufacture Hunter II ER/MP air vehicles in Starkville. An Army decision on the ER/MP winner is expected by the end of May.

"The Hunter II UAV represents persistent knowledge on the battlefield," said Seymour. "In the same way that generals throughout history have achieved competitive advantage over their adversaries by obtaining information about their enemies and quickly disseminating it to their troops, Hunter II will enable modern Army commanders to rapidly gather and provide information, so they too can achieve competitive advantage. Rapid, real-time information flowing from Hunter II's sensors will provide real-time data, enabling Army troops to move faster, gain the tactical advantage and influence the outcome of battles, which ultimately means saving lives."

Hunter II will also serve as a key information node in military communication networks that will include manned and unmanned aircraft, ships, satellites and undersea systems, he added.

Hunter II is a twin-boom, autonomous UAV that builds on the legacy of the Northrop Grumman family of Hunter UAVs. It's designed to operate at altitudes up to 28,500 feet and conduct missions up to 30 hours long. The air vehicle features a sensor suite that includes electro-optical/infrared and synthetic aperture radar systems; software architecture capable of easily accommodating new payloads and data-handling requirements; state-of-the-art avionics; a weapons capability; and a communications system that provides for the rapid relaying of data among other UAVs, including those over the horizon. The Hunter II also features a single, heavy-fuel engine that enables it to maintain near-peak performance at high altitudes, and a fully automatic take-off and landing system.

The facility where Aurora Flight Sciences will build the first Hunter II UAV is part of Mississippi State University's (MSU) Raspet Flight Research Laboratory in Starkville. Aurora has just hired its first MSU engineering graduate and plans to hire more in the near future to support its UAV manufacturing operations. According to Seymour, this strong interaction between Aurora Flight Sciences and MSU's engineering school bodes well for Northrop Grumman's UAV development plans.

"Involving engineering university students in the development and production of UAV systems such as Hunter II is important because these students have unique perspectives on how UAVs can best serve the nation's military, security, scientific and environmental needs," said Seymour. "We're looking forward to this partnership and drawing on the knowledge and research capabilities available here at Mississippi State."

Since 1995, Aurora Flight Sciences has been a key contributor to Northrop Grumman's ability to produce high-reliability, mission-effective UAVs. Today, they produce nearly one third of the fuselage for the U.S. Air Force's Global Hawk aerial reconnaissance system, which was designed and developed by Northrop Grumman. In April, they delivered the first aft fuselage for a new, larger, more capable version of Global Hawk called RQ-8B.

Northrop Grumman is the leading producer of unmanned systems for the U.S. Department of Defense. Hunter II's modular architecture is designed to accommodate future advances in avionics technology, navigation systems, weapons management or air-vehicle manufacturing and payload integration derived from the company's other UAV programs, which include the U.S. Air Force's RQ-4A Global Hawk; Hunter; the RQ-8B Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical UAV, which is being developed for both Army and U.S. Navy applications; and the stealthy X-47 Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems, currently in development for a joint Air Force/Navy/DARPA team.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use in 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.

  CONTACT: 
Brooks McKinney, APR
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
(310) 331-6610 office
(310) 864-3785 cell
brooks.mckinney@ngc.com