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Fri, Apr 18, 2003

Fire Scout UAV Flies First From Marine Ground Control Station

Northrop Grumman Corporation's Integrated Systems sector continued its successful flight testing of the U.S. Navy's RQ-8A Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle in March with the first flight fully operated from the U.S. Marine Corps' (USMC) S-788, a HMMWV-mounted ground control station (GCS).

Conducted at the Webster Field annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River (MD), the flight fulfilled a key program test objective of demonstrating Fire Scout operation by both U.S. Navy and USMC ground control stations. (Fire Scout flew its first flight operated by the Navy's S-280 GCS February 10.)

The S-788-operated flight was one of two Fire Scout flights conducted on the same day. The first flight, a 20-minute demonstration flight for senior U.S. Army aviation leadership, was operated from the Navy's S-280 GCS. Less than an hour later, the Fire Scout was launched for a functional check flight under the control of the S-788 GCS. The back-to-back test flights marked the first time that Fire Scout flights were operated from Marine Corps and Navy ground control stations on the same day.

"The short turnaround time between flights and the ease of switching from Navy ground control to Marine Corps ground control provided a compelling demonstration of the robustness and flexibility of the Fire Scout system design," said T. Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout program manager. "These test results reinforce our confidence in Fire Scout's ability to provide high-value support for critical Navy and Marine Corps missions."

During the Marine Corps-controlled flight, the S-788 GCS used its tactical control datalink to uplink payload command and control to Fire Scout and to downlink imagery. The ARC-210 datalink was used for air vehicle command and control. Use of this command and control software continues to reduce risk as the system is prepared to qualify and test the tactical control system software during flight test later this spring.

As in all previous Fire Scout flight tests, the USMC and Navy test flights were fully autonomous missions that included vertical takeoff, accurate navigation, full payload operation and return to a predetermined hover point in preparation for landing, all without operator intervention.



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