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18 Mar 04. Northrop Grumman ISS International Inc., a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC – News), has given details of its proposal for the UK WATCHKEEPER program. Northrop Grumman and Thales are the two teams chosen by the MoD to put forward bids. Thales gave details of its WATCHKEEPER bid in a briefing covered by BATTLESPACE, (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 10, March 11th 2004)

The Northrop Grumman WATCHKEEPER proposal culminates three years of risk-reduction work with the Ministry of Defence and builds on the company’s 60 years experience in unmanned systems and battlefield information systems. Northrop Grumman’s proposed WATCHKEEPER system addresses all of the Ministry of Defence’s key requirements for target detection, identification and data dissemination on the modern battlefield. It will give the U.K. Armed Forces an all-weather, world-class intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability for the 21st century.

“Northrop Grumman’s WATCHKEEPER solution will provide the United Kingdom with a flexible, robust and highly capable system for handling critical battlefield intelligence requirements well into the future,” said Scott Seymour, president of Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector, which includes Northrop Grumman ISSI. “It will also capitalize on the company’s demonstrated experience and success fielding UAVs in a network-enabled environment.”

Northrop Grumman’s proposed WATCHKEEPER solution features an open, service-based architecture that can easily encompass new technologies and respond to new operational requirements throughout the system’s predicted 30-year system life, explained Seymour. To ensure that it remains responsive to those evolving requirements, he added, the company would base its WATCHKEEPER program management team in the U.K from day one. Northrop Grumman supports its WATCHKEEPER bid with a highly qualified, operationally experienced team that will continue its partnerships with the Ministry of Defence to make this highly capable ISTAR system available for U.K. Joint Forces. The team — which includes General Dynamics U.K. Ltd, BAE SYSTEMS, Ultra Electronics, Detica, STASYS, HVR Consulting, QinetiQ and RUAG Aerospace — will help minimize the risk of fusing WATCHKEEPER into the future battlefield.

Northrop Grumman’s proposed WATCHKEEPER system offers a combination of UAVs. The fixed-wing Ranger UAV, currently in service with the Swiss and Finnish defence forces, has completed more than 3000 successful missions. The bid also includes the Northrop Grumman-developed Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical UAV, currently in low-rate initial production for the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Army has also selected Fire Scout as the Class IV unmanned aerial system for the service’s Future Combat System.

Both Ranger and Fire Scout are adverse-weather capable and can be launched and recovered autonomously, operating from sites in the field. This freedom from the constraints of operating from a fixed airfield means the UAVs can deploy alongside the operational maneuver units they support, providing truly organic ISTAR capability. This flexibility is key to maintaining field commanders’ operational tempo in a wide range of missions, helping to stay inside any adversary’s decision-action cycle. This on-call provision of superior intelligence and information to the point of decision in a modern, fluid battlefield directly supports the U.K. military doctrine of Manoeuvre Warfare.

By acknowledging the nature of current and future military operations, the Northrop Grumman team has ensured that the WATCHKEEPER system is fully interoperable with NATO and coalition forces.

Comment: Both teams are relying on tried and proven Israeli technology with the NG element, Ranger’ coming from the Swiss company Ruag. The U.S. UAV leader General Atomics has missed out in its direct participation in the UK pro

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