SAN DIEGO, June 19, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Integrated Systems sector has achieved another first for the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system. During a recent flight test, Fire Scout autonomously returned to a predetermined spot, landed and shut itself down after communications links between the air vehicle and its ground control station (GCS) were purposely shut off.
The maneuver was performed June 10 during an autonomous mission at Webster Field near Patuxent River, Md. There was no communication between the air vehicle and the GCS at any time during the recovery.
"The successful recovery event demonstrates the ability of the Fire Scout system to respond quickly and autonomously to unexpected mission contingencies such as a loss of communications," said Tom Soard, Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout program manager. "This further validates the UAV system's level of autonomy and maturity and its all-around mission flexibility."
Soard noted that, with minor enhancements, the air vehicle could navigate to a remote area beyond datalink range, land, deliver critical cargo such as medical supplies and take off, all without operator intervention.
The recent recovery maneuver was part of the Fire Scout developmental flight test program that began in May 2002 and has accumulated 49 flights to date, including four in one day by a single Fire Scout. The program continues at Webster Field in preparation for flight test operations later this year aboard the USS Denver (LPD-9) in San Diego. Upcoming advanced test objectives include a test of the tactical control system (TCS) software.
Flight testing of a four-blade main rotor configuration is also continuing on a Northrop Grumman-owned Fire Scout manned air vehicle at a Schweizer Aircraft facility in Elmira, N.Y. The new rotor would extend Fire Scout's range, payload and endurance. The Northrop Grumman/Schweizer test team recently conducted five flights to perform track and balance of the rotor and to expand the airspeed envelope above 100 knots. Fire Scout vehicles are unmanned versions of the Schweizer Model 333 helicopter.
In other program developments, Northrop Grumman has delivered the third Fire Scout production vehicle to the Navy, the final vehicle under the current low-rate initial production contract. The first two production vehicles were delivered in January and May of this year.
The Fire Scout system is in development and low-rate initial production by Northrop Grumman and could be a force multiplier for Navy forces at sea and U.S. Marine Corps forces ashore. The air vehicle can operate up to 20,000 feet above deployed Marines and provide the capability to watch for threats within 150 nautical miles of the ground control station. The system can direct Navy and Marine weapons accurately to the target with precise target location coordinates or the laser designator.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise. As one of Northrop Grumman Corporation's seven sectors, it designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems for U.S. government, civil and international customers. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.
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CONTACT: Cynthia Curiel Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (858) 518-9722 (mobile) Jim Hart (310) 331-3616