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Northrop Grumman Stellar Navigation System Makes its First Flight on RC-135 Aircraft

The RC-135 (pictured) reconnaissance aircraft provides near-real time on-scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.
by Staff Writers
Woodland Hills CA (SPX) Aug 15, 2006
The new LN-120G stellar navigation system developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully completed its first flight test on RC-135 aircraft. The LN-120G is a GPS-augmented stellar inertial navigation system that tracks stars day and night.

It uses the information about a star's location to refine the positioning information provided by the aircraft's inertial navigation systems. Repeating this process enables the LN-120G to provide heading information accurate to 20 arc seconds -- the highest accuracy available in the world.

"The LN-120G will offer improved tracking, more frequent stellar updates and improved performance over the LN-20 system it replaces," said Mark Casady, vice president of Navigation and Positioning Systems for Northrop Grumman's Navigation Systems Division. "The LN-120G will provide the RC-135 aircraft with a reliable and supportable advanced technology stellar navigation system."

Aided by the high positional accuracy of the Northrop Grumman LN-120G, hostile targets detected by the RC-135 can be accurately pinpointed and transmitted to Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft and, ultimately, to fighter aircraft.

"The LN-120G can also be adapted to address the needs of other aircraft requiring extremely precise navigation for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and other applications," said Mike Borck, Northrop Grumman's Stellar-Inertial Navigation program manager at the Navigation Systems Division.

The LN-120G introduces modern hardware and software and incorporates an integrated GPS. It provides Zero-lock(tm) gyroscope technology, advanced technology accelerometers and new electronics for the stellar telescope. The LN-20 system it replaces uses mechanical gyroscopes and accelerometers and has been in service for three decades.

Northrop Grumman was selected by the U.S. Air Force to provide 30 of these high accuracy LN-120G stellar navigation systems for the RC-135 family of aircraft in July 2005. Under the development phase of this program, the company created new software, test equipment and prototype units. The ongoing production phase of the contract calls for delivery of the new units beginning in this year.

The RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft provides near-real time on-scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities. Initially employed by the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command to satisfy nationally-tasked intelligence collection requirements, during its tenure the RC-135 fleet has also participated in every sizable armed conflict involving U.S. assets.

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