ELKTON, Md. and RESTON, Va., Jan. 20, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- The Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN) team for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program successfully completed the first in a series of static test firings of the missile's second-stage rocket motor on Jan. 17 at teammate Alliant Techsystem's (NYSE:ATK) facility in Elkton, Md. The event marked a critical knowledge point for the program that will lead up to the program's first booster flight test in 2008.

Built by ATK, the second-stage rocket motor burned successfully to completion, demonstrating proof-of-concept for this high-acceleration, high-velocity and highly maneuverable missile. Initial results from the test matched expectations for rocket-motor performance and integrity. Using the detailed data collected from this first of five Stage 2 ground tests, the team will continue to make adjustments to the motor to optimize final-design performance. The burnout velocity, acceleration and high-performance thrust vector control provided by these rocket motors give KEI the unique capability to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in multiple phases of flight.

KEI is a mobile, land-based missile-defense system that, when deployed, will be able to destroy a hostile threat during its boost, ascent or midcourse phase of flight. Northrop Grumman is leading the team charged with developing and testing a KEI capability under contract to MDA.

"The success of this initial test is a tribute not only to the hard work by the entire team, but also to the importance we've placed on mission assurance for the KEI program," said Craig Staresinich, vice president and general manager of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program for Northrop Grumman's Mission Systems sector. "We are continuing to focus on risk-reduction activities to assure the MDA that the KEI system will perform as expected in its role to engage early in defense of the United States, its allies and deployed forces."

Raytheon leads the interceptor development work for the KEI program with ATK as its principal subcontractor responsible for performing the Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 rocket-motor development work.

"Our ability to leverage exo-atmospheric kill vehicle and Standard Missile-3 technology has allowed us to focus on first- and second-stage booster development," said Chuck Ross, Raytheon vice president for KEI. "Likewise, by leveraging ATK's family of advanced solid axial stage rocket motors, we were able to successfully ground test this second-stage rocket motor and meet program development and mission assurance test objectives."

The KEI test program has met several critical milestones in the past year to mitigate risk, beginning with a successful test of the system's battle-management capability in May 2005, followed by successful high-speed wind-tunnel testing performed in July and December of 2005.

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, based in Reston, Va., is a global integrator of complex, mission-enabling systems and services for defense, intelligence and civil government markets. The sector's technology leadership and expertise spans areas such as strategic systems, including ICBMs; missile defense; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; command and control; and technical services and training.