Northrop Grumman was awarded a $46.3 million, 4-year contract to develop, test and demonstrate a net-centric architecture system that enhances warfighters' awareness of the surrounding battlefield environment. The system, Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team (HART), is designed to autonomously manage a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft and sensors, and distribute actionable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information on demand to soldiers in the field, according to the company.
"This contract award is a significant milestone for the HART program as it allows us to mature the technology and bring the system closer to theatre deployment," said Carl Johnson, vice president of Advanced Concepts-Air and Land Systems at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "The system is designed to supply intelligence data to the warfighter – on demand – and provide instant situational awareness of the vicinity. This enabling technology allows the soldier to react to tactical situations in real-time, without delays stemming from data acquisition or tasking of multiple assets. All relevant data is in the palm of a soldier's hand whenever it is needed."
The award contract encompasses field operations capability; Locktight, develop geo-registration and cooperative engagement for targeting technologies for operation in high-relief terrain environments; and Pre-Planned Product Improvement, incorporate theater-driven requirements and system modifications.
The HART system will enable warfighters to use handheld computers to request full-motion video of area of interests. HART can either dynamically retrieve the required information from a catalog of geo-registered images or direct aircraft and/or sensors to collect updated target information. HART can manage aircraft in either a fully autonomous mode, where HART fully controls both the aircraft and its payload; a semi-autonomous mode where HART controls the payload but not the aircraft; or a manual mode, where HART merely processes video from an aircraft. Requested information is displayed on a soldier's handheld device.
Since its initial demonstration in 2005, HART has been successfully integrated with a number of both operational and developmental unmanned aircraft. HART has also been developed to operate with larger unmanned aircraft including the Global Hawk, Predator, Fire Scout and X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System.