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ONR successfully disables a small target vessel using a solid-state, high-energy laser (US...

Solid-state laser weapons are a step closer to operational capability with the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) reporting that it has successfully disabled a small target boat during testing off the Californian coast. Stemming from the Defense Department's Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program, the Northrop Grumman developed Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD) was installed on the deck of the Navy's test ship the USS Paul Foster for the demonstration, making it the first time such a system has been integrated with a ship's radar and navigation system and the first time a high-energy laser has been fired at sea from a moving platform.  Read More

X-47B first flight: the era of the autonomous unmanned combat plane approaches

No matter how I look at this, it still seems like science fiction – a combat aircraft without a pilot that is capable of flying itself, making its own decisions, recognizing and neutralizing threats, and taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier. Last Friday (Feb 4), the Northrop Grumman-built U.S. Navy X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft successfully completed its historic first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The era of the unmanned combat plane is fast approaching.  Read More

The new Space Fence will detect space debris that could threaten the ISS and commercial an...

There are tens of thousands of pieces of space debris currently orbiting the Earth which pose a potential hazard to satellites, the International Space Station and other space hardware. Since the early 1960s, the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System, also known as the VHF or Space Fence, has been used to track orbital objects passing over America. Proposals are now being taken for the next phase of a new Space Fence that will better detect, report and track orbiting space junk as well as commercial and military satellites.  Read More

Cruising at 45,000 to 65,000 feet, the specially equipped Global Hawk UAV enables scientis...

Global Hawk, Northrop Grumman’s sophisticated unmanned high altitude surveillance aircraft is finding its niche in unexpected areas. In April, 2010, in consort with NASA, a Global Hawk fitted with scientific instruments completed 82.5 flight hours cruising at latitudes ranging from the Arctic Circle to just near the equator as part of an ongoing civilian research program known as GloPac, or Global Hawk Pacific Program, which aims to study atmospheric conditions over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.  Read More

 QinetiQ Zephyr solar powered unmanned aircraft to land after 14 days aloft

Barring mishap, QinetiQ will set a significant milestone in aviation history later today. After 14 days and nights in the air, the solar-powered Zephyr unmanned aircraft we wrote about last week is set to land, claiming a raft of world records for flight duration and the title of the world's first truly persistent aeroplane.  Read More

Zephyr will extend the official world record by at least one order of magnitude

Zephyr, QinetiQ’s solar-powered, high-altitude long-endurance (HALE), Unmanned Air System (UAS) is currently in the air and setting a landmark unmanned flight duration record by demonstrating what is essentially perpetual flight. The official world record for the longest unmanned flight is 30 hours 24 minutes set by Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A Global Hawk in 2001. A previous smaller relative of the current Zephyr holds the unofficial record of 82 hours but this time QinetiQ has FIA officials on hand and has been flying the new 22.5m wingspan plane for the past week, and is closing on the 200 hour mark with another week (168 hours) planned. It needs to land safely to claim the record, but the feat has already demonstrated that the era of low-cost, persistent aerial surveillance has begun.  Read More

 Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV)

Not so long ago it seemed that the golden age of giant lumbering airships had gone down with the Hindenberg, consigned to less spectacular roles in research, advertising and as a great camera platform above sporting events... but they're making a comeback. Lighter-than-air aircraft are returning to passenger carrying roles in tourism and in recent years we've seen a new-generation of airships put forward as a cargo-lifting solution (DARPA's Walrus Project) and even as a corporate air yacht (Aeroscraft ML866). Now the U.S. Army is moving quickly to build a hybrid airship weapons system that will act as a long-duration UAV – a very big UAV. The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) will be longer than a football field and stay aloft at altitudes of 20,000 feet for more than three weeks at a time providing an "unblinking eye" for surveillance and reconnaissance.  Read More

The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant has broken the sound barrier for ...

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program continues to rack up the milestones with the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant breaking the sound barrier for the first time. The F-35B, which completed its first vertical landing in March, hit Mach 1.07 (727 miles per hour) in an off-shore test on June 10 and will be put through a series of supersonic flights that will gradually take the aircraft towards its top speed of Mach 1.6. The F-35B STOVL marks the first time in 100 years of military aviation that a plane has combined radar-evading stealth, VTOL and supersonic speed and may go some way towards justifying the program's other milestone achievement of being the most expensive weapons program in military history.  Read More

The D double bubble aircraft design promises a 70 percent improvement in fuel economy (Ima...

The contribution of aircraft to greenhouse gas emissions has been well documented and while biofuels are being trialled in an effort to combat the issue, an expected doubling in air traffic by 2035 suggests that a fundamental shift in technology is needed to make real progress. That's the starting point for the D “double bubble” – a design concept presented to NASA by an MIT led research team which promises a 70 percent improvement in fuel economy, reduced noise, lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and the ability to use shorter runways.  Read More

New Fire-X UAS boasts greater hauling, payload and endurance capabilities

Northrop Grumman Corporation and Bell Helicopter have teamed up to develop Fire-X, a medium-range vertical unmanned aerial system (VUAS) that is designed to stay airborne for longer periods of time, communicate more easily with their commanders, and deliver more cargo to more remote locations. The new rugged, high-capacity UAS is based on the four-blade, single-engine Bell 407 helicopter that’s been in commercial use since 1996 and takes advantage of Northrop Grumman’s experience in developing the smaller Fire Scout UAV.  Read More

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