MOSS POINT, Miss., April 14, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) expanded its presence in Jackson County, Miss. April 13 by breaking ground on a new Unmanned Systems Center at Trent Lott International Airport in Moss Point. The new facility will be operated by the company's Integrated Systems sector, the fourth Northrop Grumman organization to locate in Jackson County.
The new 39,000 square foot facility, which the company will use to produce RQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for the U.S. Navy, will initially provide 30 new high-tech manufacturing jobs. That figure could rise to about 65 jobs within the next few years. Integrated Systems sector is the Navy's Fire Scout prime contractor.
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and representatives from Northrop Grumman, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and Jackson County Economic Development Foundation provided brief remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony.
"This site provides an opportunity for Northrop Grumman to be closer to its U.S. Army and Navy UAV customers, to take advantage of the local, well-trained workforce that has long supported the corporation and its Navy programs, and to operate a cost-competitive manufacturing center that can expand to accommodate future growth in the company's unmanned systems business," said Marty Dandridge, executive vice president of Integrated Systems.
In addition to being an ideal location for flying and testing vertical takeoff and landing UAVs, added Dandridge, the Trent Lott International Airport location allows Northrop Grumman to exploit the resources and systems-engineering skills at the company's shipbuilding operations in nearby Pascagoula, Miss.
"Jackson County welcomes the opportunity to partner with Northrop Grumman in its plans to expand the company's capability and capacity to produce unmanned aerial vehicles," said George Freeland, executive director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation. "The company's decision to make a long-term, substantial investments in Jackson County is a positive reflection on our community and on the effectiveness of Jackson County's united efforts to attract new investments. With these new facilities, Jackson County will be the home of the world's leaders in both the building of ships and the production of unmanned aircraft," he said.
Northrop Grumman's shipbuilding operations has been in Pascagoula since 1938. The company's Electronic Systems and Information Technology sectors also have facilities and employees in Jackson County. With the new facility, Northrop Grumman employment in Jackson County will rise to approximately 10,300.
The RQ-8B Fire Scout is a vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial vehicle based on the Schweizer 333 commercial helicopter. The Fire Scout system provides surveillance, reconnaissance, communications relay, precision targeting and weapons delivery to support tactical military operations from ships at sea and unimproved landing areas.
Integrated Systems is currently developing and producing the Fire Scout system for the Navy. The sector is also developing Fire Scout as the Class IV unmanned aerial vehicle for the U.S. Army's Future Combat System. The company produced and integrated the first Fire Scout units at its Unmanned Systems unit in San Diego, but will build all future Fire Scout production vehicles at the new Unmanned Systems Center.
According to Dandridge, the roles for unmanned aerial vehicle systems are evolving rapidly. "Historically," he explained, "UAVs have been used primarily to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support for warfighters. Tomorrow's UAVs will offer expanded ISR and communication capabilities for both military and homeland security missions. We're also going to see ISR, communications, and precision strike capabilities on a single platform. There is a world of change in front of us and I'm pleased that Mississippi, and especially Jackson County, will have a large role in that change."
Integrated Systems is a national leader in the development and production of UAV systems. It currently produces the U.S. Air Force's RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial reconnaissance system in Palmdale, Calif., and the Army's RQ-5 Hunter UAV at its unmanned systems center in Sierra Vista, Ariz. The sector performs research, design, development and engineering for all of Northrop Grumman's unmanned systems activities in San Diego. Those activities will remain in San Diego.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., the sector designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems for government and civil customers worldwide. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military and homeland defense missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.
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