During U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Empire Challenge 2011 (EC11) exercise conducted here, Northrop Grumman integrated emerging mission solutions into a real-world environment to showcase how new technologies can help warfighters better perform their jobs.

“Empire Challenge not only allows the warfighter to directly participate in various concepts of operations, but it also offers Northrop Grumman the chance to collect feedback from the user community on the introduction of a range of information, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] collection and processing, exploitation and dissemination solutions,” said Chris Frangos, chief architect of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

Empire Challenge embodied two connected efforts – a demonstration using live assets like the company’s newest intelligence-gathering aircraft system, Firebird, and a complex irregular warfare virtual environment.

Northrop Grumman developed the virtual environment to increase the density and the complexity of the scenarios. It was also designed to exploit the tactics, techniques and procedures to develop new capabilities that cannot be demonstrated live.

The virtual environment embodied simulations of other company ISR systems such the Bat Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Global Hawk UAS and Joint STARS. Data from both simulated systems and live assets like Firebird were integrated directly into government information networks.

The data were then analyzed, exploited and disseminated to showcase how new technologies can help warfighters.

Rick Crooks, director of special projects and Firebird program manager for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector, explained that EC11 allows soldiers the opportunity to control, access and utilize Firebird’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in a real-world environment.

“Firebird’s design is meant to reduce costs and increase efficiency by advancing key technologies that better meet warfighter needs,” said Crooks.

“The system’s universal interface allows us to quickly change, operate and share information from multiple sensors on board a single aircraft. EC11 is a fast-paced, real-world environment where Firebird’s concept of operations and mission preparedness have been successfully tested.”

Northrop Grumman has collaborated with the USJFCOM intelligence directorate and has participated in Empire Challenge since 2007.

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