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Wed, Nov 26, 2003

Northrop Grumman Hunter UAV Achieves 3,000 Combat Hours in Iraq

But Who Logs The Flight-Time?

The Northrop Grumman-built RQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) proved its value as a reliable and critical element of the US Army's reconnaissance arsenal by reaching the 3,000 combat flight-hour milestone last month over the skies of Baghdad. As of Nov. 2, Hunter has flown nearly 600 combat sorties totaling more than 3,100 flight hours since its deployment to Iraq in January 2003.

The Army has extended Hunter's operational deployment through the first quarter of next year, while continuing its flight test program at home to demonstrate the system's ability to meet a range of new mission requirements.

The multirole Hunter tactical UAV was the Army's first fielded UAV and serves as the service's interim extended-range multipurpose fixed-wing air vehicle. It allows commanders to look deep into enemy territory by collecting and relaying real-time reconnaissance, surveillance, and target-acquisition information back to ground control and mission monitoring stations. Originally designed to carry only sensor payloads, Hunter has been modified to carry munitions as well.

Last month, the Army's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Robotics, and Unmanned Sensors program offices conducted a five-hour flight test at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., to demonstrate Hunter's ability to detect, track and monitor moving objects. The UAV was equipped with an electro-optical/infrared sensor for the test.

"Hunter's outstanding performance in Operation Iraqi Freedom has helped us identify several potential new mission opportunities for the system, including border patrol and homeland security," said Nick Yorio, Northrop Grumman's director for Advanced Tactical C4I Systems.

"The recent flight test demonstrated the system's ability to track moving objects as small as rabbits across desert terrain in lighting conditions ranging from darkness to bright sunlight. This capability would be a valuable asset in the war against terrorism, both overseas and here at home."

The tracking test follows several other Hunter flight tests conducted this year by the Army and Northrop Grumman to demonstrate the performance of several air-vehicle and payload-technology upgrades including the Brilliant Anti-Tank and Viper Strike payloads. Northrop Grumman's Electronics Systems sector, Baltimore, developed both payloads.

Another Hunter upgrade, an extended center wing, is now installed on units deployed in Iraq. This wing extension prolongs the endurance of the production UAV to more than 15 hours and gives it the capability to deploy precision weapons.

FMI: www.northropgrumman.com

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