CHINA LAKE, Calif., Feb. 23, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Integrated Systems sector achieved a significant milestone in autonomously controlled flight today with the successful first flight of its Pegasus experimental unmanned air vehicle (UAV). The flight took place at NAVAIR Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif.
Northrop Grumman designed and built the Pegasus X-47A with its own funds to demonstrate low-cost, rapid prototyping; robust unmanned vehicle management; and tailless aerodynamic qualities suitable for autonomous launch and recovery flight operations from an aircraft carrier. Lessons learned from the development and testing of Pegasus will be used in support of the company's naval unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV-N) program for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Navy.
Today's flight began at 7:56 a.m. PST and lasted 12 minutes. Specific test objectives included low-speed handling qualities, air vehicle performance, navigation performance and collection of landing dispersion data. All test objectives were met.
Most significantly, the X-47A successfully landed near a predesignated touchdown point to simulate the tailhook arrestment point on a carrier flight deck. This landing data, coupled with subsequent flight touchdown points, will demonstrate the X-47A system's landing accuracy potential. The shipboard-relative global positioning satellite system was used as the primary navigation source for increased landing precision.
Built largely with composite materials and powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C engine providing 3,200 pounds of thrust, Pegasus measures 27.9 feet long with a nearly equal wingspan of 27.8 feet. The X-47A incorporates advanced autonomous flight control laws to account for directional control of its tailless design.
"The Pegasus program represents our commitment to significantly reduce the risk for our DARPA and Navy customers on the UCAV-N program," said Gary W. Ervin, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems sector vice president for Air Combat Systems. "Regular unmanned flight operations aboard a flight deck at sea have never been attempted, and Pegasus addressed some of those key concerns today.
"In addition, today's event leverages Northrop Grumman's experience with thousands of hours of autonomous flight by unmanned systems such as Global Hawk and Fire Scout," Ervin said. "Our approach to design from a 'system' perspective is reflected in our success with a full range of UAVs, and Pegasus is a logical progression in repeatable performance with a complex aerodynamic shape. This success also points to the potential for joint use of the Pegasus design to meet Air Force requirements in the government's emerging Joint UCAV program."
The goal of the joint DARPA/Navy UCAV-N program is to demonstrate the technical feasibility for an unmanned system to effectively and affordably conduct sea-based surveillance, strike and suppression of enemy air defenses missions within the emerging global command and control architecture. The Pegasus program will play a significant role in supporting this effort.
The X-47A was designed in El Segundo at the Air Combat Systems business area of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems. The vehicle was built at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise with the capabilities to design, develop, produce and support fully missionized integrated systems and subsystems. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services in support of chosen segments within the broad market areas of battlespace awareness, command and control systems and integrated combat systems.
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