REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 27, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- Laser systems built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) reached significant landmarks for the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser (ABL) with the completion of critical subsystem tests and upgrades for the high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) and ground testing of the Beacon Illuminator Laser (BILL).

After a series of 32 test missions conducted last year at the Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) at Edwards Air Force Base, the entire laser system proved extremely robust and reliable. The SIL houses a modified Boeing 747 freighter fuselage where all elements of the laser system were assembled and tested.

The COIL's Optics and Diagnostics Subsystem (ODS) redirects the laser light out of the laser modules, reshapes the laser beam for optimal target illumination, suppresses aircraft jitter (shaking), measures the high energy laser performance and propagates the beam to its interface with the Lockheed Martin-developed Beam Control/Fire Control (BC/FC) system.

After SIL testing, the ODS was removed and more than 60 improvements were made as part of the system's refurbishment, including power distribution and alignment stabilization upgrades. The system has now been reassembled and aligned in a clean room at Edwards AFB. Recent tests verified subsystem performance and signified the laser system is ready to begin installation into the YAL-1A flight aircraft.

The ODS will be the first laser subsystem installed onboard the flight aircraft. Due to its large bench enclosures, air supply pallets and electronic racks, ODS must be installed before any of the other large laser items that comprise the entire COIL system, the world's most powerful directed energy weapon built for an airborne environment.

"These milestones are proof that we are making remarkable progress toward realizing ABL's ultimate mission of destroying a ballistic missile in flight," noted Alexis Livanos, president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "We're extremely proud of the work our team is doing in continuing our heritage of achievement building a wide variety of high-energy military laser weapons systems."

The ABL program, operating on dual technology paths, is pursuing the completion of a Low Power System Integration (LPSI-a) ground testing including operation of the Beacon Illuminator (BILL), a solid-state laser that is used to measure the atmosphere and compensate the COIL beam as it travels toward a target at the speed of light. Completing over 200 full-power firings in the ground tests, the BILL operates under the control of the BCFC system and meets all performance requirements relative to ground test. BILL's next step will be flight testing which begins in late 2006.

ABL's high-energy COIL laser beam, traveling at the speed of light, will provide the response needed to stop a missile in its boost phase, while it is still climbing in the Earth's atmosphere. Destroying a missile before it can deploy its warheads increases the margin for success.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are working closely with the Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency to develop ABL. Boeing is contributing the ABL battle management system, supplying the modified 747-400 freighter aircraft and overall weapon system integration. Lockheed Martin is responsible for the beam control/fire control system and Northrop Grumman is providing the BILL and the complete COIL system.

The ABL program is managed and executed by the Missile Defense Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Northrop Grumman has developed high-power, solid-state lasers for the Office of the Secretary of Defense - Joint Technology Office, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Office of Naval Research, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force, and the Missile Defense Agency. The company is a world leader with more than 30 years' experience in the development of solid-state and chemical high-energy lasers.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a 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 more than 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

  CONTACT:  Bob Bishop
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology
          (310) 812-5227
          Cell: 310.251-0261