BETHPAGE, N.Y., May 6, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy have advanced, with a recent exercise, the service's warfighting goal of interconnecting sensors, manned and unmanned aircraft, ships and offensive weapon platforms in real time to locate and strike targets.
In the April 14 demonstration, engineers from the Naval Air Systems Command and Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector used a Navy E-2C Hawkeye battle management aircraft to integrate and direct a precision strike mission using information provided over a network by a Navy RQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a simulated aircraft carrier operations control center, and an F/A-18 strike aircraft.
Northrop Grumman's Advanced Information Architecture (AIA), an Internet-like communications architecture of in-theater, platform-based servers, provided the data storage and sharing capabilities that enabled this first-time communication among manned and unmanned Navy airborne systems.
"The Navy/Northrop Grumman team created a non-proprietary, open-architecture network for this demonstration using commercial-off-the-shelf equipment - and we did it without writing a single line of software code, " said Tim Farrell, vice president and leader of Northrop Grumman's airborne early warning integrated product team. "The network, which included the company's AIA server and related software, was up and running in less than a week, a testament to the joint team's ability to provide innovative, cost-effective solutions for complex FORCEnet requirements."
FORCEnet is the network of systems that the Navy envisions will integrate its Sea Power 21 operational concept. FORCEnet spans and integrates everything the Navy must do - from undersea to space operations, from procuring parts and systems to payroll and housing - to carry out its mission.
In the command and control exercise, the E-2C aircraft directed the Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical UAV to search for a suspected target within a specified area. The UAV captured and stored real-time video imagery of the target areas on board its AIA server. The E-2C then downloaded this digital imagery from Fire Scout and sent it over a wideband network to a software-simulated aircraft carrier operations center in Newport News, Va., and ground stations in Bethpage, N.Y., and Arlington, Va.
Operators in both the carrier operations center and the E-2C Hawkeye used specialized targeting software to determine precise target coordinates, then posted them to a Web site. The Hawkeye crew used the data from that Web site to direct an orbiting F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to simulate an attack on the target.
"This concept demonstration proves that an innovative team armed with available technology can create a digital kill chain capable of reducing strike timelines from hours to a few minutes," said Capt. Robert LaBelle, NAVAIR E-2/C-2 program manager. "The Navy will use this concept to develop proposed capabilities that could be further evaluated under its Sea Trial initiatives."
The team for this battle management command and control demonstration comprised elements of the Naval Air Systems Command's PMA-231 (E-2C), PMA-263 (Fire Scout), and PMA-265 (F/A-18) program offices, its VX-20 test squadron, and representatives from Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems and Newport News sectors.
The Hawkeye and Hornet aircraft flew out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The Fire Scout operated from Webster Field, Md. The Virginia Advanced Shipbuilding and Carrier Integration Center (VASCIC) simulated aircraft carrier is located in Newport News, Va. A joint effort of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Newport News and Northrop Grumman's Newport News sector, VASCIC is a "proving ground" for advanced shipbuilding and operations technologies.
The ground stations in Bethpage and Arlington are part of the Northrop Grumman nationwide Cyber Warfare Integration Network (CWIN), a synthetic engineering environment that links four company sites linked to one another and customer sites around the country. CWIN was created to design systems and "systems-of-systems" and evaluate them within real-time, full-spectrum battlefield, homeland security and other scenarios.
The April 14 test demonstrated that CWIN can receive data from ships, planes and other platforms, sensors, weapons and battle management command and control centers anywhere in the world, or from internally generated, high-fidelity models, to create real-world environments.
The Northrop-Grumman proposed Advanced Information Architecture stores imagery and other critical battlefield information in a network of high-capacity servers located on in-theater airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and battle management platforms. It allows "bandwidth challenged" tactical users to download mission critical data on demand directly from platforms such as the U.S. Air Force's E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), the RQ-4 Global Hawk aerial reconnaissance system or the Navy's RQ-8 Fire Scout tactical UAV.
AIA provides a faster, simpler alternative to the expensive, bandwidth-intensive process used in recent foreign conflicts to download Global Hawk image data to ground stations based in the U.S., analyze it, then push it back into theater on demand. To date, the company has validated the concept in scenarios involving exchanges between Global Hawk; Joint STARS and ground users; and exchanges between a Global Hawk surrogate; a Fire Scout surrogate and ground users.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use in networks. 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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