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RQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical UAV System

The Fire Scout RQ-8B

El Segundo CA (SPX) Jul 26, 2005
Northrop Grumman Corporation's Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) system will provide unprecedented situational awareness and precision targeting support for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps of the future.

Fire Scout is currently in the flight test phase of engineering and manufacturing development and low rate initial production. Since its EMD flight test program began in May 2002, Fire Scout has completed more than 40 flight tests successfully.

The program has delivered three production air vehicles and two ground control systems to the U.S. Navy. Northrop Grumman will begin qualification testing of Fire Scout's operational system software this summer in preparation for shipboard landing tests planned for later in the year.

Fire Scout's Model 379 air vehicle, based on the Schweizer Model 333 manned helicopter, can autonomously take off and land on any aviation-capable warship and at unprepared landing zones in proximity to the forward edge of the battle area.

The VTUAV system includes advanced ground control facilities that encompass the Navy's tactical control station developed for ships as well as the forward deployed Marine Corps portable ground station, tactical datalinks and communications. A modular mission payload capable of continued growth and a highly reliable vertical takeoff UAV meet or exceed all performance criteria requested.

With vehicle endurance greater than six hours, Fire Scout will be capable of continuous operations providing coverage 110 nautical miles from the launch site. A baseline payload that includes electro-optical/infrared sensors and a laser designator enables Fire Scout to find tactical targets, track and designate targets, accurately provide targeting data to strike platforms and perform battle damage assessment.

Acting as a communications node within the proposed network-centric warfare battlespace of the future, Fire Scout will increase the effectiveness and flexibility of other platforms.

Northrop Grumman won a competitively awarded $93.7 million engineering and manufacturing development contract for Fire Scout in February 2000. In May 2001, Fire Scout moved into low-rate initial production (LRIP) with a $14.2 million contract award from the Navy's Naval Air Systems Command. The company received the award for the first of three planned LRIP options to be exercised by the U.S. Navy. The first LRIP system includes three air vehicles, two ground control stations, a data link suite, remote data terminals and modular mission payloads.

The contract also includes funding for associated support equipment, data and initial training. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif.; Elmira, N.Y.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Baltimore, Md.; and Sparks, Nev. The Navy and Northrop Grumman are conducting Fire Scout flight testing at the Webster Field UAV test facility, NAS Patuxent River, Md. The team has conducted more than 40 successful flight tests since May 2002.

In August 2003, Fire Scout was selected as Class IV unmanned air system for the US Army's Future Combat System. The FCS Fire Scout will be a key element of the Army's tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting architecture, providing real-time imagery and data collection and dissemination at the brigade level. Under an eight-year, $115 million contract from the Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) and Science Applications International Corporation, the Army's FCS lead systems integrators, Northrop Grumman will develop the required UAS architecture, produce seven RQ-8B Fire Scout air vehicles, perform system tests and evaluations, and help develop long-lead future requirements.

The RQ-8B air vehicles for FCS are similar to the RQ-8A Fire Scouts Northrop Grumman is producing for the Navy. The FCS air vehicles will feature a new, four-blade rotor system (versus the RQ-8A's three-blade design), improved airfoil blades and several performance enhancements that enable more than eight hours endurance with a specification payload weight of 130 pounds.

On Dec 17, 2003 the 100 th anniversary of manned flight, Fire Scout made its own history by completing its 100 th consecutive successful flight. This milestone flight took place at Webster Outlying Field (OLF) near Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where Fire Scout flew a flawless mission in preparation for continuing flight operations onboard the USS Denver (LPD-9). The flight capped 18 months of successful Fire Scout system development, testing and flight demonstrations during which the UAV system accumulated approximately 75 flight hours.

In April 2004, Northrop Grumman broke ground on a new Unmanned Systems Center at Trent Lott International Airport in Pascagoula, Miss. The company will use the new 100,000- square-foot facility to produce RQ-8B Fire Scouts for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army, as well as subassembly work for the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance system. Work at the facility is expected to begin in Jan. 2006.

Other significant events in Fire Scout's future include a performance enhancement program to develop and flight-test a four-bladed main rotor system with improved airfoil blades, and a weapons program to provide Fire Scout with a precision strike capability.

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St Louis (SPX) July 26, 2005
Boeing and Science Applications International today awarded four multimillion-dollar contracts to three premier industry partners to participate in the first phase of development for two classes of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

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