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Northrop Grumman Uses Test Flights to Demonstrate Key Technologies for U.S. Army Unmanned Armed Rotorcraft Program

Testing includes first autonomous flight of unmanned helicopter surrogate, reinforces evolving role for UAVs in U.S. Army concepts of operation

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 2, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) recently used two company-funded test flights of an unmanned helicopter surrogate to demonstrate key technologies for its proposed concept for a new U.S. Army unmanned armed rotorcraft program.

The test flights of the company-owned Yamaha RMAX unmanned helicopter, which is being used as a surrogate for the company's concept for the Army's Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (UCAR) program, included a remote-control flight and the RMAX's first autonomous flight. The flights are the latest in a series of company-funded activities designed to demonstrate how unmanned systems can increase the fighting effectiveness of Army ground- and helicopter-based units.

Northrop Grumman is currently competing for Phase III of the UCAR demonstration program, which is funded jointly by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Army. To date, the company has conducted more than 60 flight tests of the RMAX UCAR surrogate covering more than 35 hours of flight time to help refine its UCAR concept.

The RMAX's first autonomous flight was completed Oct. 7 at Camp Pendleton, Calif. In that test, the air vehicle, which incorporates vehicle management system hardware and autonomy software that Northrop Grumman is developing for the UCAR program, was piloted remotely to an altitude of 200 feet, then transitioned to a fully autonomous flight. After the autonomous flight, which lasted approximately eight minutes, the vehicle landed under remote control. All software tests and previously predicted vehicle responses were achieved with success.

During Army exercises conducted Sept. 9-14 at Fort Rucker, Ala., the RMAX was operated under remote control to demonstrate how unmanned systems could reinforce the combat operations of an advancing ground unit supported by a rotary wing aviation unit. These company-funded flights were coupled with virtual manned and unmanned combat units provided through modeling and simulation activities, which included network communications.

The exercises included three scenarios, representing different phases of a typical joint combat engagement: virtual U.S. Marine Corps ground units advanced over desert terrain to an urban area, then dismounted and cleared the city -- building by building. Mounted in light armored vehicles, the Marines were supported by virtual Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and simulated Marines "flying" AH-1Z Super Cobras. The Army aviation unit also supported the virtual ground forces using real pilots to "fly" virtual cockpits configured as AH-64D helicopters, and Hunter UAVs simulated by systems at Redstone Arsenal.

For these exercises, the RMAX UCAR surrogate provided real-time video surveillance support for the virtual engagement. While the virtual Army and Marine units "advanced," the UAV flew actual flights at the Fort Rucker test range under remote control, gathering video surveillance data about the "enemy" and feeding it to the virtual troops via its mobile ground station.

"Our primary goal for the autonomous flight test at Camp Pendleton was to demonstrate predicted autonomous vehicle response for our UCAR concept," explained Greg Zwernemann, Northrop Grumman's UCAR program director. "In the Fort Rucker exercise we wanted to show that it can fly over a battle zone, collect critical visual information, then transmit it to the ground for use by dismounted soldiers, helicopter units or other members of a tactical strike team."

The Fort Rucker exercises were conducted as part of the Army's Unmanned Systems Initiative, a coordinated, Army-wide effort to rapidly identify, evaluate, develop and integrate unmanned systems technologies into operational systems. In addition to Army aviators from Fort Rucker, Aviation and Missile R&D UAV system program managers and P Executive Office tactical missile representatives from Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and dismounted combat soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga. cooperated in the exercise.

Army Col. Glen A. Rizzi (ret.), working in support of the director of Combat Developments was enthusiastic about the Fort Rucker tests. "The Unmanned Systems Initiative allows us to experiment with manned and unmanned systems using the latest technology to bring live UAVs, computer simulation, and constructive aircraft simulators from three different locations -- Fort Rucker, Redstone and Benning -- all together at one time," he said.

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 on networks. For its 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.

Heather Back
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
(858) 618-4405 office

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