HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Aug. 27, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- The U.S. Army's new Viper Strike precision munition, designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), scored direct hits on nine out of nine targets during a successful flight demonstration conducted July 25-28. The weapon was dispensed from the Army's Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also a Northrop Grumman product.

Co-sponsored by the Army's Precision Fires Rocket and Missile Systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Project Offices, the drops were performed at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The Hunter's TV and infrared (IR) sensors and laser designator enabled ground operators to locate and laser-designate targets for Viper Strike engagement from the same UAV that carried the munition. A soldier on the ground using the Army's Lightweight Laser Designator/Rangefinder (LLDR) designated other targets engaged by Viper Strike.

The widely varied test scenarios included day and night strikes against modified civilian vehicles and conventional military targets, both moving and stationary, hot and cold. The target set consisted of T-72 tanks and armored vehicles, both equipped with countermeasures; a Free Rocket Over Ground artillery rocket launcher; a pickup truck and a utility truck; a heavy motorized rocket launcher; and an automobile.

"The outstanding success of these demonstrations clearly shows the capability of Viper Strike to add significant lethality to the Army's Hunter UAV mission," said Emmitt Gibson, vice president for Precision Munitions at Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector. "Combined with the Hunter's sensor suite, which supplies real-time information on the battlefield, Viper Strike will provide the Army with a loitering weapon system that is responsive to today's commander."

To demonstrate Viper Strike's unique top-down, pinpoint capability to attack urban targets precisely, the tests included engagement of a stationary pickup truck parked on a street between simulated buildings (construction trailers). During this exercise, the Hunter's TV camera acquired the target and the LLDR was used to designate the truck. The adjacent trailers sustained only minimal collateral damage, while the truck was totally destroyed.

The Viper Strike, which uses a semi-active laser seeker to find its designated target, has been developed as a derivative of the Bat submunition at Northrop Grumman's Land Combat Systems facility at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala. The weapon is intended for operations that require a steep angle of attack, particularly in mountainous terrain and built-up areas where strict rules of engagement are in force. It requires a "man in the loop" to lase the target, which ensures the greatest possible accuracy and minimizes the chances of collateral damage.

The Hunter UAV, supplied by Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, provides real-time day/night video surveillance for intelligence-gathering and target acquisition. Originally designed to carry only sensor payloads, Hunter recently was modified to carry munitions as well. The aircraft has logged nearly 9,000 flight hours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans.

The LLDR is designed and produced by Northrop Grumman's Laser Systems business unit for Program Manager, Sensors and Lasers, Fort Belvoir, Va.

Land Combat Systems is a unit of Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-based Electronic Systems sector, a world leader in the design, development, and manufacture of defense and commercial electronics systems, including airborne radars, navigation systems, electronic countermeasures, precision weapons, airspace management systems, communications systems, space systems, marine systems, oceanic and naval systems, government systems, and logistics services.

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  CONTACT:  Viper Strike contact: 
          Doug Cantwell
          (410) 765-9332

          Hunter UAV contact:
          Janis Lamar
          (703) 345-7046