SAN DIEGO, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman has won a $635.8 million U.S. contract to carry out at-sea carrier launches and recoveries with a fixed-wing unmanned air system.
The program will involve Northrop Grumman's X-47B unmanned air system, or UAS, and will be the first set of trials with such a system ever carried out at sea, the company said in a statement Friday.
"The Navy's program, known as the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D), will demonstrate the capability of an autonomous, low-observable air vehicle. The UCAS-D effort will mature critical technologies, reduce unmanned air system carrier integration risks and provide information necessary to support a potential follow-on acquisition milestone," Northrop Grumman said.
"We are proud of our legacy of innovation and creativity in developing new combat capabilities and are pleased to be selected to lead this revolutionary advancement in unmanned systems capabilities," said Scott Seymour, president of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector.
"The UCAS-D award is the culmination of several years of effort with the Navy to show the benefit of melding the capabilities of a survivable, persistent, long-range UCAS with those of the aircraft carrier," said Gary Ervin, vice president for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems Western Region sector. "The UCAS-D program will reduce the risk of eventual integration of unmanned air systems into carrier environments."
Northrop Grumman said it would construct two air vehicles and conduct technology maturation activities for the program. "The first air vehicle is scheduled to fly in late 2009 and will begin a series of detailed flight envelope and land-based carrier integration and qualification events beginning in 2010. The first at-sea carrier landings are planned for late 2011 with follow-on analysis and program completion by 2013," the company said.
Northrop Grumman said the X-47B air vehicles would be put together in Palmdale, Calif., by an industrial team that involved Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, GKN Aerospace, GE Aviation, Honeywell, Eaton Aerospace, Moog Inc., Wind River, Goodrich, Parker Aerospace, Dell, Hamilton Sundstrand and Rockwell Collins.