Raytheon to improve unmanned aircraft control system

Raytheon Co. won a $36.8 million contract modification from the Naval Air Systems Command to significantly upgrade the software that controls unmanned aerial vehicles, the company said.

Lexington, Mass.-based Raytheon will modify its Tactical Control System software, which runs on a ground- or air-based control station and operates the Navy's Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. Northrop Grumman Corp. is the prime contractor for the Fire Scout program.

The upgrades will allow the Navy to control several UAVs simultaneously and bring the system into compliance with NATO's Standardization Agreement 4586. That agreement sets out the specifications of a common ground station for all UAVs used by NATO forces. Such standards will enable different UAVs to communicate with NATO ground stations, giving commanders greater control over NATO's UAV fleet.

"The enhancements to be made as part of this effort will increase TCS's interoperability and simplify the process for adding new unmanned systems and payloads," said John Nannen, vice president of remote systems for Raytheon.

Raytheon's system upgrades will also allow the Navy to add weapons to the Fire Scout.

The Navy completed its first successful flight of Fire Scout using TCS software in August 2003. Since then, Raytheon's software has flown the Fire Scout from a control station on the U.S.S. Denver and aboard the P-3C Orion aircraft. Controlling a UAV from another aircraft was an aviation first, according to the Navy.

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