REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 20, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will evaluate the capabilities of Skyguard, a high-energy laser proposed by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) to defeat the man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) threat to commercial aviation under a newly awarded contract.

The company's Space Technology sector received a $1.9 million, 18-month contract from DHS to evaluate emerging solutions to counter the MANPADS threat to commercial aircraft and civil airports. Northrop Grumman will develop a detailed operational concept for using ground-based high-energy laser systems in the civil aviation environment, perform component-level testing and assess life-cycle costs.

"The ability of a high-energy laser to shoot down rockets, artillery and mortars has been demonstrated repeatedly with mature chemical laser technologies proven in the Tactical High Energy Laser, or THEL," said Alexis Livanos, Space Technology president. "Skyguard will be a revolutionary approach to aviation security because it's based on the only laser system that has shot down a wide variety of airborne threats in flight. Northrop Grumman is the only company that has built a deployable high-energy laser weapon system that has destroyed such targets."

A formal technology readiness level (TRL) assessment will be made of ground-based, non-DIRCM (directional infrared countermeasures) technologies in terms of their potential application in the civil aviation environment, the department noted, specifying that technology readiness levels of TRL6 or TRL7 are expected in the systems it chooses for further evaluation.

Federal officials said the solutions they are seeking are based on existing component technologies, emphasizing that the program will not undertake the development of new elements.

"As the prime contractor for the THEL test bed, Northrop Grumman is building on that system's nearly perfect record of performance and safety in Skyguard," said Mike McVey, president of the Directed Energy Systems business area. "Skyguard will be one-fourth the size and one-half the cost of THEL, while also being more powerful and more efficient."

Northrop Grumman Space Technology has been developing and demonstrating high-energy laser weapon systems for more than 30 years, paving the way for the U.S. to incorporate them across all services, including ships, manned and unmanned aircraft, and ground vehicles.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With more than 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

  CONTACT:  Bob Bishop
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology
          (310) 812-5227
          (310) 251-0261 (mobile)