SAN DIEGO, Sept. 8, 2011 -- Aerospace trade publication Defense News has selected the U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) -developed X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) as its Unmanned Technology & Innovation Achievement for 2011.

Launched in 2010, the awards recognize recent advances in defense technologies by U.S. companies and defense agencies. Achievements are nominated and selected based on their ability to help the war fighter, to advance their field and to reduce costs.

The autonomous X-47B is the air vehicle for the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. It will be used in 2013 to demonstrate the first carrier landings and launches by a tailless, low-observable-relevant unmanned system. The fighter-sized aircraft features an innovative, GPS-based navigation and landing system that will enable it to land autonomously, with precision, on the moving deck of a Navy aircraft carrier.

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's UCAS-D prime contractor. The company has built two X-47B aircraft to fulfill the demonstration objectives of the UCAS-D program, which is intended to reduce risk for potential unmanned systems operating in and around an aircraft carrier.

"It's an honor for the X-47B UCAS to be recognized by Defense News' elite panel of defense industry specialists for the aircraft's contributions to aeronautical engineering and naval aviation," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president, Navy UCAS for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "The Navy/Northrop Grumman team is privileged to have a leading role in maturing and demonstrating technologies that will help speed the integration of unmanned systems into future carrier operations."

In addition to the planned carrier launches and landings in 2013, added Pamiljans, the program will also demonstrate the ability of the X-47B to conduct autonomous aerial refueling operations in 2014.

The X-47B was designed by Northrop Grumman in San Diego and El Segundo, Calif., and assembled in Palmdale, Calif. The first air vehicle successfully completed its first flight Feb. 4 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The Navy/Northrop Grumman/U.S. Air Force UCAS-D integrated test team is currently conducting additional flights of that first X-47B to validate its airworthiness and in-flight performance. The aircraft is expected to transition to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., by the end of 2011 to begin land-based carrier suitability testing. The second X-47B aircraft is currently undergoing ground testing leading up to its first flight, which is expected to occur by the end of the third quarter.

The purpose of the UCAS-D carrier integration effort is to digitize the communications and navigation information flow to incorporate capabilities required for unmanned air system (UAS) flight operations aboard a carrier, with minimal impact to existing hardware, training and procedures.

The X-47B is a computer-controlled UAS that takes off, flies a preprogrammed mission, then returns to base in response to mouse clicks from its mission operator. The operator actively monitors the X-47B air vehicle's operation and responds to air traffic control instructions, but does not "fly" it via a remote stick-and-throttle control the way some unmanned systems are currently operated.

Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D joint industry team includes GKN Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Eaton, General Electric, Hamilton Sundstrand, Dell, Honeywell, Goodrich, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins.

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