19 Aug 04. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC – News) has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to continue work on the X-47B portion of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) demonstration program. Valued at up to $1.04bn over five years for the program’s operational assessment phase, the award includes initial funding of $30M.
The J-UCAS program is an effort by DARPA, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy to demonstrate the technical feasibility, military utility and operational value of networked, unmanned, air-combat systems to suppress enemy air defenses, perform electronic attack, conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and perform precision strike attacks.
In this phase, Northrop Grumman will produce and flight-test three X-47B unmanned demonstration vehicles with associated mission-control stations and logistical support elements. Flight demonstrations are expected to begin in 2007.
Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector leads a J-UCAS team that includes Lockheed Martin Corp., and Pratt & Whitney. Work will be performed at facilities in El Segundo, Palmdale and San Diego, Calif., and East Hartford, Conn.
“Our J-UCAS effort builds upon Northrop Grumman’s longstanding experience in developing successful unmanned combat air systems by applying expertise from across the company and the rest of our industry,” said Christopher M. Hernandez, vice president and general manager of Unmanned Systems, a unit of the Integrated Systems sector. “Northrop Grumman’s leadership in unmanned systems includes combat-proven assets such as the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk and the Army’s RQ-5 Hunter. Both systems are in service supporting the global war on terrorism.”
The three objectives of the J-UCAS operational assessment program are to demonstrate the technical feasibility of developing a family of network- centric J-UCAS systems — managed by a common operating system — for operation from land or an aircraft carrier; to assess the joint operational utility of the J-UCAS concept in the mission areas of suppressing enemy air defenses, strike, electronic attack and penetrating surveillance and reconnaissance; and to develop production system concepts for the Navy and Air Force.
“Consistent with DARPA’s objective of fielding demonstrators with warfighting potential, the X-47B promises to be a highly capable air warfare system, well suited to support the full spectrum of military operations,” said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman’s J-UCAS program director. “It will be very stealthy and thus highly survivable. It will carry a wide variety of sensors with a large internal weapons payload and be fully networked into the military’s emerging joint operational architecture. Aerial refueling will allow it to provide persistent coverage deep into the battlespace from long distances.”
The J-UCAS common operating system, flexible architecture and modular air vehicle design will allow the X-47B to support emerging joint missions.”These X-47B demonstrators are the first step toward a new, transformational era of combat aviation where we can quickly and affordably adapt an airframe design to a particular mission, wrapped around a common core architecture,” Winship said.