SAN DIEGO, July 22, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Navy's RQ-4 Block 10 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) unmanned aircraft system demonstrated its flexibility and persistence by providing critically needed imagery to firefighters during the recent Northern California wildfires. Built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), GHMD flew more than 23 hours June 27-28 and collected more than 500 images for local fire officials.

"The flexibility of the GHMD team to rapidly shift gears from a planned maritime mission to a domestic humanitarian mission surpassed many expectations, by responding so quickly and providing high resolution images for the firefighting commanders," said Dave Seagle, GHMD program lead for the Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-262) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. "GHMD's capabilities and versatility to support this mission may have ultimately helped save lives and homes, and that is extremely gratifying to our GHMD team."

Flying its first civil emergency support mission for the U.S. Northern Command, GHMD imaged various fires, including those near Monterey, San Francisco Bay, Big Sur, Crescent City, and the California-Oregon border.

"The images were gathered while the GHMD aircraft was on assignment in Point Mugu, Calif., supporting the Navy's Trident Warrior and Rim of the Pacific 2008 exercises," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president of high-altitude long-endurance systems. "The GHMD team has performed superbly, meeting all mission objectives in support of both exercises."

The RQ-4 Block 10 GHMD can soar up to 65,000 feet, much higher than any other operational unmanned aircraft. It provides high-resolution, near real-time imagery and other sensor data for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance. The high-flying aerial vehicle's radar can persistently see through any type of weather. The newer RQ-4 Block 20 aircraft has demonstrated the ability to remain aloft for more than 35 hours.

The GHMD configuration uses a basic integrated sensor suite with an electro-optical, infrared, synthetic aperture radar payload modified for the maritime environment, along with limited signals intelligence capability. The GHMD aircraft is also equipped with a Naval Research Laboratory-designed automatic identification system, enabling it to receive shipboard broadcast system transponder information.

The principal Global Hawk team members include: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bridgeport, West Va. (V-tail assembly and other composite structures); L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City (communication system); Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo, Calif. (integrated sensor suite); Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, Falls Church, Va. (ground station); Rolls-Royce Corporation, Indianapolis (engine); and Vought Aircraft Industries, Dallas (wing).

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a 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:  Gemma Loochkartt
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems 
          (858) 618-4245 
          Cell: (858) 335-0694