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08 Dec 08. FLIR Systems, Inc.’s Star SAFIRE® III was an integral component of Northrop Grumman Corporation’s latest successful MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Unmanned Aircraft System (VUAS) demonstration. Simultaneous radar and electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) digital video was provided from the Star SAFIRE III sensor through the Fire Scout’s tactical common data link. The demonstration was part of an ongoing internal research and development effort to reduce risk and solidify requirements for multiple program radar integration on Fire Scout. The successful 40 minute flight, using a company-owned air vehicle and ground control segment, took place on November 18th at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona test centre. Star SAFIRE III is qualified beyond Mil Specs and available with up to seven sensor and laser payloads, including a high-resolution infrared imager, long-range colour cameras and an embedded global positioning system/inertial navigation system for precise target location.

24 Nov 08. Watchkeeper Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV): Flight Trials. Thales UK announced (24 Nov 08) the successful first system flight trials of the Watchkeeper UAV, with the autonomous flight taking place under the system guidance of the ground control software and fully integrated within the ground control station. The trials took place at Elbit’s facilities in Israel.
Comment: Watchkeeper is being developed by Thales UK, at a (March 2007) forecast cost of £900m. The forecast ISD for Watchkeeper is June 2010, by which time one sub-unit should be trained and equipped to support a Medium Scale deployment. The complete programme is to consist of 54 UAV and 13 ground stations, plus ancillary equipment. While awaiting Watchkeeper, the Army has some 10 Hermes 450 in Afghanistan. Hermes 450 is the platform upon which the Watchkeeper system is based. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 0848, 08 Dec 08)

08 Dec 08. The U.S. Navy’s MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV), developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation, was prominently displayed on the flight deck of the USS Freedom (LCS-1) littoral combat ship during its commissioning on Nov. 8, 2008 at Milwaukee’s Veteran’s Park. The ceremony was attended by the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, the governor of Wisconsin and numerous other military, governmental and civic leaders. Fire Scout remains onboard the USS Freedom as it now transits to Norfolk, Va. The USS Freedom will be homeported in San Diego.

09 Dec 08. The Air Force is modifying a Fixed Price Incentive Firm contract with Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif. not to exceed $18,222,000. This action will provide additional long lead associated with 5 Global Hawk Air Vehicles, 2 Ground Segments, 2 EISS and 2 ASIP sensor payloads. At this time the entire amount has been obligated. 303 AESG/PK Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8620-08-C-3001, modification P00005).

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