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Autonomous Flight By Fire Scout UAV (June 11)

SAN DIEGO, Ca.--- The U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle (VTUAV) technology demonstrator successfully completed another autonomous flight test June 7 at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, Calif.

The 26-minute flight was the third in a series of tests that Northrop Grumman Corporation's Integrated Systems sector, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are conducting at the China Lake test range to demonstrate Fire Scout system capability.

The preprogrammed autonomous mission included vertical takeoff; accurate navigation through various waypoints while changing altitude, heading and airspeed, and return to a predetermined touchdown point.

After an autonomous engine start, through detailed systems checkout and launch, the vehicle completed a series of climbs and descents, reaching an altitude of 4,000 feet and an airspeed of 30 knots. Additionally, the vehicle completed a series of turns and reversals and airspeed changes before returning to the hover position over the intended point of landing. All objectives were met under fully autonomous control.

The Fire Scout system, which is completing development, is designed to be a force multiplier for the Navy forces at sea and Marine Corps forces ashore. It uses flight control architecture derived from the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance reconnaissance system. Global Hawk has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to conduct autonomous missions of more than 30 hours' duration over thousands of miles.

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 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 onboard laser designator. Fire Scout was designed to respond to Navy and Marine Corps emerging requirements and to replace the aging Pioneer.

Fire Scout is the launch demonstration system for the Navy's next-generation common UAV Tactical Control System (TCS). Fire Scout is the first flying system that will be fully TCS-compliant. A complete Fire Scout system includes three UAVs, two ground control stations, a data link suite and modular mission payloads.

The Fire Scout industry team includes Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems based in Baltimore, Md., which is teamed with TAMAM-Israel Aircraft Industries and is responsible for the sensor payload. The team also includes Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, Elmira, N.Y.; Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Owego, N.Y.; L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Sierra Nevada Corporation, Sparks, Nev.

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.


Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff And Landing UAV Successfully Completes 26-Minute Autonomous Flight