News From Washington

NIST and National Federation of the Blind to Cooperate

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) president Marc Maurer announced that the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the NFB will work together to test a prototype technology developed by NIST that provides the blind and visually impaired with access to electronic images in the same way that Braille makes words readable.

NFB members will field test the new device, known as a tactile graphic display, so that NIST researchers can get firsthand input on how the technology may be improved for future commercialization. The Federation put an early version of NIST's rotating wheel Braille reader (that converts electronic text such as e-mail into Braille characters) through its paces and gave the designers valuable ideas for making the device more user-friendly and effective. Today, the Braille reader is ready for licensing by the company or companies that can bring this low cost, powerful tool to the market place. The announcement came in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month and NFB's National Meet the Blind Month. This work to foster the development of simple to manufacture, low cost and easy to use alternatives will open opportunities for learning, exploration and growth to blind children and adults in the home, school and workplace.

For a detailed description of NIST's tactile graphic display device, go to: factsheet/visualdisplay.htm. For more information on NIST's rotating-wheel Braille reader, go to: www.itl. gov/div895/isis/projects/brailleproject.html.

Northrop Grumman Awarded $34.2 M Contract for Work on Radar Antenna

Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Integrated Systems sector has been awarded a $34.2 M contract by the US Air Force for the first phase of the B-2 radar Pathfinder program, a multi-year effort to design and integrate a new radar antenna on the B-2 stealth bomber.

The total program value for Northrop Grumman, prime contractor for the B-2 program, is estimated at more than $900 M. Installation of the radar antenna on the B-2 fleet is scheduled to be completed by the end of this decade. The modification consists of an active electronically scanned array antenna that will resolve a Ku-band spectrum compliance issue with the radar operating frequency. This technology allows for a substantial performance improvement in range and resolution for the future. Work during the first phase, which ends in June 2003, will consist of system engineering leading to the establishment of performance requirements. Northrop Grumman's work will be performed at its Integrated Systems facility in Palmdale, CA. The Raytheon Co., El Segundo, CA, which provided the original B-2 radar, is the principal subcontractor to Northrop Grumman on the radar program. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems performs depot airframe maintenance on the B-2 and is developing a series of upgrades to improve its maintainability, lethality and connectivity.

US Air Force Successfully Completes Live-fire Test of Infrared Countermeasures

Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system, chosen by the US Air Force to protect its transport aircraft from the threat of heat-seeking missiles, has successfully completed live missile fire tests and has entered low rate initial production.

"The LAIRCM system has passed another milestone on its way to safeguarding the Air Force's fleet of C-17 and C-130 aircraft," said Bob Del Boca, VP, Infrared Countermeasures and Laser Systems, at Northrop Grumman's Defensive Systems Division. "The fact that the live-fire tests were completed only weeks after laser effectiveness testing is evidence of the determination of the LAIRCM team to offer this invaluable level of protection to Air Force transport flight crews as quickly as possible."

"We leveraged our system off Air Force Special Operations Command's Directional Infrared Countermeasures system and added the Viper™ laser to protect larger aircraft and provide growth for more capable emerging missile threats," said Col. Mike Cappelano, Air Force LAIRCM program director. "This saves the Air Force approximately $75 M and completes the first phase of the LAIRCM program, 22 months faster than originally planned." The favorable milestone-C low rate initial production decision for LAIRCM was passed on August 22. "The successful milestone-C allows us to buy the first four LAIRCM production ship sets for installation on four additional C-17 aircraft," Cappelano said. The LAIRCM system is a laser-based, next-generation system employing many of the elements that are common with Northrop Grumman's AN/AAQ-24 (V) NEMESIS system currently in use by the military in both the US and the UK. The AN/AAQ-24 (V) NEMESIS protects large fixed-wing transports and small rotary-wing aircraft from the infrared missile threat by automatically detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat and activating a high intensity countermeasure system to track and defeat the threat. The LAIRCM next-generation system introduces new improved capabilities, including an all-band laser subsystem. During the live-fire tests, the LAIRCM system was mounted on a cable car equipped with heat sources representing a C-17 signature, which was used as a target for surface-to-air infrared-guided missiles. Live missiles were then launched against this target from inner-, mid- and outer-ranges, across the missile's "high probability of kill" envelope. In each of the tests, the LAIRCM system was fully autonomously operated and had no prior knowledge of threat type or location. The system had to detect and declare the threat missile, then allocate the jamming assets required to defeat it. As a further test, two of the live-fire missions involved multiple missile engagements. During these engagements, the system successfully recognized that it had eliminated one threat and then reallocated its resources to defeat the other threat.

Raytheon Tactical Tomahawk Successfully Completes First Underwater Launch

Raytheon Co. and the US Navy successfully completed the second demonstration test flight (DT-1) of the Raytheon-produced Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile at the Naval Air Systems Command western test range complex in southern California.

"The resounding success of DT-1 and the entire test flight program demonstrates that the US Navy-Raytheon team will be delivering to the war fighter a strike weapon with transformational capabilities," said Capt. Bob Novak, US Navy Tomahawk All-up Round program manager. DT-1 marks the first underwater launch of the Tactical Tomahawk missile. Launched from a fixed underwater vertical launcher on San Clemente Island, the missile flew an over-water mission on the sea test range and then flew over land to prosecute targets on the China Lake Test Range. The Tactical Tomahawk successfully met planned test objectives that included missile performance from pre-flight initialization through attack; demonstration of all flight modes, terminal maneuvers, variable dive angles and fuzing function; and Global Positioning System/Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (GPS/DSMAC) navigation. Building on the success of the first demonstration flight test August 23, the missile also successfully demonstrated GPS jamming performance, Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) processing and time of arrival performance. Tomahawk, the surface- and submarine-launched, precision strike standoff weapon, is the Navy's weapon of choice for critical, long-range precision strike mission against high value, heavily defended targets. Tomahawk will incorporate innovative technologies to provide new operational capabilities while dramatically reducing acquisition and life cycle costs. Scheduled for fleet introduction in 2004, the Tactical Tomahawk will cost less than half of a new built Block III missile and will have the capability to respond to changing battlefield conditions through the use of its loiter and mission flex features.