Northrop lands equipment deal for Neuron demonstrator

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Europe's Dassault-led Neuron consortium has placed a key contract for its unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator, ahead of the type's planned first flight within a little over two years.

Neuron partner company Saab Aerosystems has selected Northrop Grumman LITEF to provide its LCR-100 attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) for the programme's one flight-test aircraft. The equipment will provide "accurate and uninterrupted attitude, heading, position, velocity and status information", says Northrop.

Being developed by a consortium of companies from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, the Neuron air vehicle is intended to de-risk development work on a possible future operational-standard UCAV. The multinational effort is worth around €400 million ($600 million).

 
© Dassault

With a maximum take-off weight of around 6.3t, the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour-powered aircraft should make its flight debut from France's Istres test centre near Marseilles on 31 March 2012. Flight activities will continue through 2013, and also include low observable and weapons deployment trials in Sweden and the use of a smart internal weapons bay in Italy.

Based in Freiburg, Germany, Northrop's LITEF subsidiary says the lightweight off-the-shelf system to be supplied for the Neuron demonstrator is based on the use of fibreoptic gyros and micro-electromechanical accelerometers.

The company has previously supplied AHRS equipment for manned types including the Beechcraft T-6A turboprop trainer, plus inertial measurement units for the Eurofighter Typhoon.