Northrop Grumman Puts Fire Scout UAV on Final Approach

Thursday, October 16, 2003
In preparation for an historic first shipboard landing by the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle, Northrop Grumman Corporation conducted two successful test flights of the UAV in late August. The flights were made between Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Calif., and the USS Denver underway at sea. During both flights, air vehicle and mission payload operators aboard the Denver used the Raytheon-developed Tactical Control System (TCS) software and the Navy's S-280 ground control station to control the Fire Scout and its payload from launch to recovery. Fire Scout is the first UAV system to be fully TCS compliant. "The recent test flights helped us ensure that every aspect of the Fire Scout operation is consistent with the requirements of the shipboard environment," said Tom Soard, Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout program manager. "It's part of our commitment to demonstrate the vital surveillance and reconnaissance role that unmanned air vehicles can play in the Navy's future littoral force structure." Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector leads the Fire Scout test team. The team also includes the crew of the Denver; as well as representatives from the Naval Air Systems Command and PMA-263 (the U.S. Navy's UAV program office), and the Raytheon Company. Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, headquartered in Baltimore, provides the Fire Scout's payload, which consists of electro-optical and infrared sensors and a laser designator/range finder. The team plans to conduct precision approaches to the Denver and the first shipboard landings later this fall. The first Fire Scout test flight, conducted Aug. 21, served as a functional check flight. It occurred near the Denver and lasted approximately 20 minutes. During a 1-1/2 hour second flight conducted Aug. 23, the UAV made several approaches to the Denver and responded successfully to several intentional, operator-directed wave-offs. The second flight also demonstrated Fire Scout's ability to fly navigation and approach routes relative to a moving platform. The Fire Scout system is in development and low-rate initial production by Northrop Grumman for Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. It can serve as a force multiplier for Navy forces at sea and U.S. Marine Corps forces ashore. The air vehicle, which can operate at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, watches for threats within 150 nautical miles of its ground control station. The system also can direct Navy and Marine weapons accurately to a target either by using its laser designator or by providing precise target location coordinates.

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