Prototype of Fire Scout Autonomous Unmanned System Successfully Completes First Flights
Northrop Grumman, May 21, 2002 - SAN DIEGO (PRIMEZONE) -- The third prototype of the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle system successfully completed its first two flights May 19, at Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif.
The Fire Scout system was designed by Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Integrated Systems sector as a force multiplier for Navy forces at sea and Marine Corps forces ashore. The prototype unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is a technology demonstrator for the RQ-8A program.
These flights tested the system's ability to take off, fly and land autonomously. The first test, the shorter of the two, verified the ability to modify the system's fully autonomous, preprogrammed mission by executing override commands to hover and land. Following launch, the air vehicle climbed to 30 feet and began forward flight. Upon reaching 10 knots air speed, it was given a zero airspeed command, after which it entered a hover at 30 feet. It was given an override land command by the system operator and the vehicle landed on the runway centerline.
The five-minute second flight demonstrated a completely autonomous mission including vehicle start, takeoff, flight, landing and shutdown. Upon command, the vehicle launched and proceeded to hover at 30 feet at the first predesignated waypoint. The vehicle transitioned to forward flight at 10 knots, climbing to 100 feet. Three waypoints were crossed at 200 feet and 10 knots, respectively, while continuously correcting for a gusting, 90-degree crosswind. After capturing the final waypoint, the vehicle descended to a preprogrammed 30-foot hover/hold position. Following the land command, the vehicle landed on the runway centerline within inches of the intended touchdown point. The mission concluded with an autonomous shutdown.
The Fire Scout uses flight control architecture derived from Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk long-endurance, high-altitude reconnaissance system. Global Hawk has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to conduct autonomous missions of more than 30 hours' duration over thousands of miles. Another derivative architecture is on Northrop Grumman's X-47A Pegasus experimental vehicle, scheduled to fly later this year, which will demonstrate aerodynamic flying qualities for autonomous operation from an aircraft carrier. That demonstration will be used in Northrop Grumman's work on a naval unmanned combat air vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy.
The Fire Scout system is in low-rate initial production for the Navy. Flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, the Fire Scout system employs an advanced payload with an electro-optical/infrared sensor including a laser designator/rangefinder to provide intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance with pinpoint accuracy, giving military decision-makers real-time information and targeting of enemy resources and personnel on the ground. The Fire Scout's communications suite allows simultaneous voice/data relay much farther than the "line of sight" limits employed by current systems.
Fully autonomous, Fire Scout can fly high above deployed Marines to watch for threats within 150 nautical miles of the ground control station. The system then directs Navy and Marine weapons accurately to the target with precise target location coordinates or the laser designator. Fire Scout was designed to respond to Navy and Marine Corps emerging requirements and to replace the aging Pioneer. A complete system includes three UAVs, two ground control stations, a data link suite and modular mission payloads.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a premier aerospace systems integration enterprise. Integrated Systems has the capabilities to design, develop, integrate, produce and support complete systems, as well as airframe subsystems, for airborne surveillance and battle management, early warning, airborne electronic warfare and air combat aircraft. It is also integrating these capabilities for emerging network-centric warfare concepts.
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Northrop-Grumman RQ-8A Fire Scout