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Northrop Grumman Team and U.S. Air Force Successfully Conduct First Flight Tests of Airborne Networking System

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 14, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Air Force successfully completed flight testing of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), a significant milestone toward providing warfighters an advanced way to share critical information by communicating over airborne networks at high altitudes.

BACN is an Internet protocol-based airborne communications relay and information server that links radios and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems for U.S. Department of Defense networks. Flying at extremely high altitude, BACN extends the range of line-of-sight radios, relaying information to airborne and surface-based units, and, via satellite, to distant command centers.

For the flight tests, conducted earlier this month at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, the BACN gateway system payload was carried by a NASA WB-57 aircraft, selected because of its high-altitude flight capabilities. The tests included radio communications between the airborne and ground systems and confirmed the communications capabilities required of the BACN system.

BACN's forward-edge tactical server provides real-time information access to situation awareness, surveillance, imagery and network-management information for air and ground-based units, including the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Rapid Attack Information Dissemination-Execution Relay mobile vehicle. The airborne executive processor assembles and manages ad hoc Internet-protocol networks and bridges heterogeneous tactical data and voice networks. It is remotely controlled from ground units such as the Joint Interface Control Officer (JICO) Support System, the U.S. military's next-generation of joint and coalition network management systems also being developed by Northrop Grumman.

"BACN provides the foundation for airborne networking," said Mike Twyman, vice president of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems' communication and information systems business unit. "After JEFX 06 (Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2006), we will work with the services to transition the capability to joint platforms including Global Hawk."

In partnership with NASA's Johnson Space Center, Northrop Grumman developed an economical way to demonstrate BACN's capabilities by first flying it aboard the NASA WB-57 as a surrogate for the Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. The WB-57, with its 2,000-square-foot wing, was the only aircraft available that could sustain flight at more than 60,000 feet for more than four hours, fly flight profiles compatible with advanced Air Force fighter and bomber aircraft and eliminate antenna co-site interference.

Following initial flight testing from Miramar, the BACN system will be evaluated at the JEFX 06 exercise in April. During JEFX 06, BACN will provide a fused operational picture to commanders at all levels and enable them to direct aircraft and forward deployed troops in real time.

The Northrop Grumman team developed BACN for the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and the Air Force Aerospace Command and Control, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

The Defense Microelectronics Activity, McClellan, Calif., awarded Northrop Grumman a $25.7 million, 17-month contract in April under its Advanced Technology Support Program. The program is designed to give the government access to a broad range of technologies, capabilities and expertise it can rapidly apply to improve the operational readiness of fielded Defense Department systems.

The Northrop Grumman team includes the NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston; Raytheon Solipsys, Laurel, Md.; L3 Communications, Salt Lake City; Vanu Inc., Cambridge, Mass.; Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and ViaSat Inc., Carlsbad, Calif. The team is led by Northrop Grumman's Mission Systems sector and includes the company's Space Technology, Integrated Systems and Information Technology sectors.

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, based in Reston, Va., is a global integrator of complex, mission-enabling systems and services for defense, intelligence and civil government markets. The sector's technology leadership and expertise spans areas such as strategic systems, including ICBMs; missile defense; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; command and control; technical services;

CONTACT:  Janis Lamar
          Northrop Grumman Mission Systems 
          (703) 345-7046
          janis.lamar@ngc.com