Northrop Grumman, January 16, 2003 - SAN DIEGO -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's Integrated Systems sector, prime contractor for the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle system, today rolled out the first production air vehicle and ground control station at a ceremony at the company's Unmanned Systems facility here.
Attending the ceremony were representatives of the U.S. Navy Fire Scout program office, the U.S. Naval Surface Forces Pacific Fleet, the Defense Contract Management Agency, California's 50th and 52nd U.S. congressional district offices and the Fire Scout industry team.
"The air vehicle and ground control station you see today represent completion of initial production elements of the Fire Scout system, the first truly shipboard-compatible production representative UAV," said Cmdr. Osa Fitch, U.S. Navy Fire Scout team lead, during the ceremony. "Featuring vertical takeoff and landing, it is capable of being operated from the helicopter pad of all air capable ships."
Following the ceremony, the air vehicle and ground control station will be shipped to the Webster Field annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where they will join the ongoing Fire Scout flight test program.
During Fire Scout's most recent engineering test flight on Dec. 21, 2002, the air vehicle flew an envelope expansion test for more than one hour through 71 waypoints. The air vehicle climbed to a maximum altitude of 5,500 feet MSL at an air speed of over 97 knots (110 miles per hour).
As in previous Fire Scout flight tests, the preprogrammed autonomous mission included vertical takeoff, accurate navigation and return to a predetermined hover point in preparation for landing, all without operator intervention.
The Fire Scout payload, which is supplied by Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, Baltimore, Md., consists of electro-optical and infrared sensors and a laser designator/rangefinder, which provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery and data.
The system employed its sensors during the test to locate, identify and track a mix of targets including vehicles, buildings and geographic features. In addition, the laser rangefinder was employed to evaluate the precision target location feature of the payload and vehicle management system.
Additional flight tests to support engineering and manufacturing development are planned this spring. Flight tests to demonstrate weapons targeting and delivery as well as shipboard landings are being evaluated for inclusion in the test program later in the year.
The Fire Scout system is in development and low-rate initial production as a force multiplier for Navy forces at sea and Marine Corps forces ashore.
Flying at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, Fire Scout employs an advanced payload with an electro-optical/infrared sensor including a laser designator/rangefinder. This demonstrated system can provide intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance and targeting information with pinpoint accuracy to military decision-makers. The Fire Scout's communications suite is designed to allow simultaneous voice/data relay much farther than the "line of sight" limits of 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. A complete system includes three UAVs, two ground control stations, a datalink suite and modular mission payloads.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise with the capabilities to design, develop, produce and support fully missionized integrated systems and subsystems. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services in support of chosen segments within the broad market areas of battlespace awareness, command and control systems and integrated combat systems.