SAN DIEGO, Feb. 20, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Navy has decided to integrate Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) onto another air-capable ship before it reaches the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The Fire Scout is still slated to go aboard the LCS, and the Navy remains committed to transitioning the Fire Scout in that direction.

The Fire Scout is a key enabler for LCS and significantly contributes to its designated warfare mission areas of anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and mine warfare. The modular nature of the ship to accomplish the designated mission is perfectly complemented by the Fire Scout and its modular mission payload capability. However, due to changes in the LCS development schedule, the Navy intends to conduct the Fire Scout Operational Evaluation (OpEval) aboard a ship that will be designated by the U.S. Fleet Forces Command within the next thirty days. This will provide the fleet with unmanned aerial system support as soon as possible.

According to the current schedule, the Navy will conduct Technical Evaluation on the Fire Scout on the designated ship in the fall 2008 and OpEval in the summer 2009. The Fire Scout will reach Initial Operating Capability soon after OpEval in 2009. The Navy will continue to support LCS Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) efforts in fiscal year 2011.

"This is great news for the Navy and for the Fire Scout," said Doug Fronius, MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV program director for Northrop Grumman's Integrated System sector. "It's a win-win situation because the Fire Scout gets to progress through testing and initial operational capability. It will be ready to deploy on operational missions and will be ready when the LCS needs it."

Fire Scout VTUAV restructuring is in the best interests of the Fleet and the U.S. Navy Fire Scout VTUAV program because it enables the Navy to continue supporting LCS integration and will provide a more mature system for LCS deployments.

Fire Scout is capable of landing on all air-capable ships, so integration efforts will focus on dynamic interface testing, supportability assessments and data management. The Navy and Northrop Grumman are working together to define and develop a roll-on/roll-off Fire Scout ship deployment package that will facilitate this effort.

Fire Scout is currently conducting envelope expansion, software validation, payload integration and data link testing at the Webster Field annex of Naval Station Patuxent River, Md.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $32 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Rene Freeland
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (858) 618-7606