EL SEGUNDO, Calif., April 26, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and its partners on Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter team continued laying critical groundwork for the aircraft's operational effectiveness by conducting a weapons-loading demonstration with military ordnance crews from the United Kingdom. Involving operational users early in the design of key aircraft components is unprecedented in military aircraft programs.

Ordnance crews from the Royal Air Force and Navy loaded mockups of several weapons into a full-scale mock-up of the F-35's internal weapons bay and provided evaluations of the process to the F-35 design team. The demonstration - similar to a weapons-loading exercise with U.S. ordnance crews last December - was conducted March 23-25 in El Segundo at the headquarters of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a stealthy, supersonic aircraft designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft for the Royal Air Force and Navy, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and allied defense forces worldwide.

"Allowing our U.K. users to provide feedback early in the program will enable us to evaluate and refine the weapons bay design to make sure it meets their needs," said Steve Briggs, Northrop Grumman vice president and F-35 program manager. "Traditionally, military aircraft programs have conducted demonstrations like this after the first aircraft was built, which limited opportunities for military personnel to provide meaningful input. Interacting with operational users is another example of the new standard the F-35 program has brought to the defense industry."

According to Mark Jones, U.K. Weapons Principal for the JSF Program Office, the weapons-bay model is a key risk-reduction tool for the program. "The demonstration proved a great success, giving the U.K. load crew the opportunity to fully assess the baseline loading concept," he said. "The results from the demonstration will help us in providing the warfighter with the optimum loading solution."

The demonstrations will ensure the F-35 weapons bay accommodates a variety of internally carried ordnance and that ground crews can easily load it. The weapons used included air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-120 and AIM-132 air-to-air missiles, and "smart," GPS-guided munitions such as 1000-lb., and 2000-lb., versions of the joint direct attack munitions.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, a principal member of the Lockheed Martin F-35 development team, is responsible for design and integration of the F-35 center fuselage section, including integration of the subsystems; development of a substantial portion of F-35 mission systems software; ground and flight test support; signature- and low-observables development support, and modeling and simulation activities support.

Northrop Grumman will assemble F-35 center fuselages at its advanced manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., and then ship them to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., in Fort Worth, Texas, for final assembly.

In addition to Integrated Systems, three other Northrop Grumman sectors support the F-35 program: the Electronic Systems sector provides the fire control radar, the electro-optical distributed aperture system and, with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, the electro-optical targeting system. The Information Technology sector provides system and software engineering support for the mission planning system; and the Space Technology sector, provides the integrated communications, navigation and identification avionics suite.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it 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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  CONTACT:  Louise Muniak
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems 
          (703) 741-7330