EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 10, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Next generation bombers equipped with a high-energy-laser-based defensive system and other advanced weapons could perform a variety of new interdiction, strike and special forces missions according to a new virtual bomber concept unveiled recently by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC).

Northrop Grumman is the U.S. Air Force's prime contractor for the B-2 stealth bomber, the flagship of the nation's long range strike arsenal.

The company demonstrated its new high-energy laser (HEL) bomber concept Sept. 26-27 during the Advanced Concepts Event (ACE) '07, an annual virtual war-gaming exercise staged by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate, Albuquerque, N.M.

Billed as a "warfighters-in-the-loop" event, ACE '07 was based on a U.S. government-defined military scenario. It included participation by U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and Air Force warfighters located at military installations throughout the country collaborating in real time over a network with Northrop Grumman employees. The weapon systems used in the exercises -- both advanced and currently fielded systems -- were represented by virtual, physics-based models provided either by Northrop Grumman or one of the services.

"ACE '07 allowed military commanders to get a clear understanding of how future bombers could participate effectively in the prosecution of a variety of future military missions," explained Robert Smerke, principal investigator for operations and simulation analysis for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "By giving bombers new types of offensive and defensive capabilities, we can expand their utility and value to the military far beyond the traditional long range strike role."

"The ACE '07 event also included an opportunity for Air Force B-1, B-2 and B-52 pilots to collaborate on defining the preferred characteristics, weapons load and mission roles for a next generation long range strike platform," added Smerke.

Northrop Grumman engineers participated in ACE '07 from various nodes of the company's geographically distributed network of virtual battlefield environments known as the Cyber Warfare Integration Network (CWIN). CWIN provides not only virtual models for airborne systems, but also realistic terrain databases, and the operational command and control software required to create a realistic battlefield environment.

The HEL bomber concept was simulated using a reprogrammed cockpit simulator located within the CWIN laboratory located at Northrop Grumman's facility in El Segundo.

During the ACE exercises, the HEL bomber participated in a variety of simulated missions that included using:

  * Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to attack maritime targets;
 * Small Diameter Bomb IIs to attack fixed, high-value land targets;
 * Massive Ordnance Penetrators to attack hardened, deeply buried
   targets such as bunkers and tunnel facilities;
 * Miniature Air-Launched Decoys and Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided
   Missiles to identify, suppress and/or destroy surface-to-air missile
   sites; and
 * the HEL bomber to drop special operations forces into combat using
   a modified air-launched cruise missile carrying a pressurized,
   self-contained pod.

Each HEL bomber mission was supported by one or more military assets such as the Army's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System; the Navy's EA-6B ICAP III electronic attack platform; the Navy's E-2D tactical airborne warning and control system; the Army's E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System; and the Air Force's RQ-4 Global Hawk aerial reconnaissance system.

The final mission of ACE '07 involved a first time collaborative experiment with Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II aircraft in which an F-35 accompanying the HEL bomber successfully intercepted and destroyed four hostile airborne interceptors.

"In all cases, we demonstrated that the HEL bomber could be an effective partner in helping to establish the air superiority required for effective allied military operations to occur," added Smerke.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 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:  Brooks McKinney, APR
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (310) 331-6610
          Mobile: (310) 864-3785