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Northrop Grumman Flies Modernized Firebee Aerial Target for U.S. Navy

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 17, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) reached another milestone for its BQM-34 Firebee aerial target with the latest version's successful first flight featuring an enhanced integrated avionics unit as the vehicle's autopilot. Aerial targets are the U.S. Navy's most realistic means of training sailors and airmen against airborne threats and testing an array of weapon systems, and the avionics upgrade supports the service's aerial-targets transformation plan.

The BQM-34 Firebee's primary mission is to simulate tactical threats by enemy aircraft and missiles for defense readiness training, air-to-air combat training and test and evaluation of weapon systems. The BQM-34 Firebee is also in service with the U.S. Air Force and international military services. In addition to serving as an aerial target, the Firebee can also support a variety of operational scenarios including unique payload delivery missions. Most notably, it supported allied operational requirements during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The aerial-targets transformation plan includes implementing autonomous waypoint navigation, complex, pre-programmed three-dimensional maneuvers, and plug-and-play common digital architecture for payloads. Northrop Grumman developed this common-technology approach in collaboration with the Navy's targets program office to help simplify logistics requirements, alleviate obsolescence problems and reduce the operational costs of its fleet of subsonic targets.

"With the integration of the avionics unit, the Navy will effectively have a new, flexible, unmanned platform that can support a wide variety of fleet-training exercises, test and evaluation and other special purpose applications," explained Bruce Shaw, Northrop Grumman's BQM-34 avionics upgrade project manager. "The Firebee is a workhorse that has supported multiple services in peacetime and wartime for more than five decades. These latest product enhancements promise to extend that legacy well into the future."

The flight took place at the Naval Air Warfare Center at Point Mugu, Calif., following a Navy-funded eighteen-month development program. The integrated avionics unit, currently in production for the Navy's BQM-74E aerial target, will also serve as the baseline autopilot for the BQM-74F aerial target, which will enter flight testing in late August 2005.

"The upgraded Firebee Target provides the Navy with a modern, autonomous, flight capable GPS waypoint navigation Target," said Chris Lape, Northrop Grumman's director of target programs. "The benefit to the Navy extends beyond mission performance, to include common avionics and modern mission planning support equipment. This great increase in performance, utility, and supportability will be provided to the Navy at a fraction of the cost of a new Target."

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use in networks. For its government and civil customers worldwide, Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military and homeland defense missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.

CONTACT:  Tim Paynter
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems 
          (858) 618-4245
          tim.paynter@ngc.com