SAN DIEGO, Jan. 27, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- The Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)-built Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle system has officially lifted off as the Class IV unmanned aerial system (UAS) for the U.S. Army's Future Combat System (FCS).
Northrop Grumman received an eight-year, $115-million contract for the program's system development and demonstration phase from The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) and Science Applications International Corporation, the Army's FCS lead systems integrators.
During this phase, Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector will develop the Class IV UAS architecture, produce seven RQ-8B Fire Scout air vehicles, perform system tests and evaluations and help develop long-lead future requirements. Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-based Electronic Systems sector, the aerial sensor integrator for FCS, will integrate the surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition systems on the FCS Fire Scout air vehicles.
"This contract reinforces Northrop Grumman's growing leadership as a valued and preferred provider of unmanned aerial vehicle solutions to the nation and its allies," said Chris Hernandez, general manager of Integrated Systems' Unmanned Systems unit. "Fire Scout is ready to takes its place as a vital, capable and highly effective part of the Army's Objective Force transformation."
The FCS Fire Scout will be a key element of the Army's tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting architecture, providing real-time imagery and data collection and dissemination at the brigade level, he added.
The RQ-8B air vehicles for FCS are similar to the RQ-8A Fire Scouts Northrop Grumman is producing for the Navy. The FCS air vehicles will feature a new, four-blade rotor system (versus the RQ-8A's three-blade design), improved airfoil blades and several performance enhancements that enable more than eight hours endurance with a specification payload weight of 130 pounds.
Data from company-sponsored engineering tests indicate that the four-blade design will triple Fire Scout's payload capacity to 600 pounds, double its on-station time at 110 nautical miles (with a 200 pound payload), increase its payload volume and enhance system supportability.
The four-bladed rotor system also enhances Fire Scout 's ability to carry multiple payloads simultaneously. To date in Northrop Grumman's Navy Fire Scout test program, the three-bladed RQ-8A air vehicle has flown 13 flights carrying the General Atomics Lynx synthetic aperture radar with ground moving target indicator; the baseline electro-optical/ infrared/ laser designator range finder; and a communications relay payload -- a combined payload weight of approximately 430 pounds. The company conducted those flights in July and October of 2003.
In addition to the rotor configuration, the most significant differences between the Army and Navy Fire Scout systems are the air vehicles' sensors and avionics. For the Navy, Northrop Grumman takes a total systems approach, defining the optimum sensors, data links, and ground control station. For the Army, the FCS lead system integrators will define for Northrop Grumman the communications package, data links, sensors and a common distributed ground control station that must be integrated.
Both services will benefit from a Northrop Grumman Fire Scout weapons integration program currently underway. To date, the program has completed fit checks and engineering for the installation of two four-packs of 2.75-inch rocket launchers on the air vehicle. The launchers are designed to fire Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rockets. The company expects to begin its rocket-firing test program in 2004 using unguided rockets, followed by tests using guided rockets when they become available. The company is also planning a Fire Scout weapons test in 2004 with Viper Strike, a laser-guided precision munition.
As the Class IV UAS, Fire Scout will be a force multiplier for Army forces. The air vehicle can operate up to a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and out to 150 nautical miles from its ground control station while providing real-time video imagery. The system can also support intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and precision strike missions.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems for government and civil customers worldwide. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.
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