CHOICE OF FIRE SCOUT FOR FCS STRENGTHENS NORTHROP WATCHKEEPER BID
11 Sep 03. At a briefing during DSEi, Northrop Grumman gave an update to its bid to provide the UK’s Watchkeeper solution. In a move seen a strengthening the company’s offering for the system, Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector has been named an industry partner on the U.S. Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program by Boeing (NYSE: BA – News) and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), the program’s lead system integrators. The win marks a major expansion of the sector’s role as a provider of integrated systems solutions for the Army.
The Watchkeeper programme calls for Main Gate approval in the first half of 2004 with ISD in summer 2006. The manufacturing and development phase bids will be submitted by mid-November.
Integrated Systems will base its Class IV UAS solution and its Watchkeeper offering, on the highly successful RQ-8 Fire Scout VTUAV system currently in test and evaluation for the U.S. Navy. The system has been in development and low-rate initial production since 2000. Fire Scout has successfully flown more than 75 test flights since May 2002 demonstrating its ability to take off, fly, navigate and land autonomously, and collect imagery from its onboard sensor payload. The company has planned additional flight tests later this year to demonstrate other sensors and forward firing weapons targeting.
When the implementation of a rotary winged UAV was first mooted by Northrop in the late nineties, the solution was seen as providing more risk than existing systems. Now interest in Fire Scout is huge and a number of countries including Spain and the Uk are looking at the system particularly for naval operations. It is one of a few smaller UAV systems with a payload which can carry a SAR/GMTI radar payload as well as EO/IR systems. The addition of a four bladed rotor has increased payload and performance. Future requirements for the Watchkeeper programme may include weaponisation of the system thru the current JUEP studies.
At the same time as evaluation for the UAV systems is carried out, Northrop’s Electronics Systems segment is waiting for a crucial decision between the General Atomics UAV radar and the Northrop TUAVR for use on the Hunter and Fire Scout UAVs. Six systems are to be procured with a total of 120 delivered over a number of years. Nick Ceradini told BATTLESPACE that he was confident that his company’s bid had met all the required specifications and that the TUAVR would be trialled on the Firs Scout next month.
The use of open architecture by the Northrop Team for Watchkeeper and the inclusion of BAE Systems who will provide a vital role for the team in the form of modelling and simulation specific to the future force structure, as well as providing a seamless transition from the existing Phoenix programme. The Northrop team has established an office in Bristol and is currently looking for a suitable site for a systems and final assembly centre.
Integrated Systems will develop and produce the FCS program’s Class IV unmanned aerial system (UAS) based on the RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV).
“This win is a validation of the robust and reliable unmanned systems solutions that we’ve delivered to warfighters across all services,” said Scott J. Seymour, corporate vice president and Integrated Systems sector president. “We’re delighted to be part of the team, and confident that our Class IV UAS solution will become a vital and effective part of the Army’s Objective Force transformation.”
The Class IV UAS will be a key element of the tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting architecture, providing real-time imagery and data collection and dissemination at the brigade level.
The company’s Baltimore-based Electronic Systems sector has been selected by the Boeing-SAIC team to serve