Northrop Grumman to build stratospheric surveillance airship

ROME, N.Y., 11 May 2006. U.S. Department of Defense researchers are looking to Northrop Grumman Corp. Space and Missiles Group in Redondo Beach, Calif., to design and build a surveillance airship with a structure that integrates several sensor systems.

May 11th, 2006

ROME, N.Y., 11 May 2006. U.S. Department of Defense researchers are looking to Northrop Grumman Corp. Space and Missiles Group in Redondo Beach, Calif., to design and build a surveillance airship with a structure that integrates several sensor systems.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., through the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., awarded a $15.5 million contract to Northrop Grumman for the Integrated Sensor is Structure program, otherwise known as ISIS, which envisions a stratospheric airship operating as a surveillance platform more than 43 miles above the Earth.

The goal of the ISIS program is to develop a stratospheric airship-based autonomous unmanned sensor with years of persistence in surveillance and tracking of air and ground targets. It will have the capability to track the most advanced cruise missiles at a distance in excess of 370 miles and dismounted enemy combatants on the ground nearly 200 miles away.

Achieving this goal will require the development of technologies that enable large, lightweight phased-array radar antennas to be integrated into an airship platform, Air Force officials say. Major technical challenges are the development of ultra-lightweight antennas, antenna calibration technologies, power systems, station keeping approaches, and airships that support extremely large antennas.

The Northrop Grumman Corp. Space and Missiles Group in Redondo Beach, Calif., won a $6.7 million contract to develop a direct current efficient transceiver to minimize the prime power requirement of large aperture phased array platform. The contract also calls for engineers to develop a low-cost, low-mass module packaging solution to reduce the overall system weight.

The firm's Electronic Sensors and System Section at Linthicum Heights, Md., won an $8.7 million contract to develop a lightweight, low-power density Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology for the ISIS. The technology will be dual band (UHF and X-Band) and bonded to the flexible hull material of the airship.

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