Precision, Affordability and Survivability
By Dan Olson, Vice President and General Manager of Weapon Systems
In a world where our warfighters fight to retain superiority in an increasingly contested global threat environment, Northrop Grumman defines possible in its innovations to ensure operational success.
The weapons of the near future sustain speeds at hypersonic levels, five times faster than the speed of sound. Ground artillery systems need to maintain precision execution at high volumes. Network systems must offer high levels of survivability. The future of battle boils down to power dominance warfare, defined by precision, affordability and survivability.
Each of these topics are quite distinct and critical to our success at Northrop Grumman, yet they support one another and run throughout our collective effort to support the warfighter.
Precision in All Systems
Precision is vital to our weapons systems as well as our computing, networking, C4ISR and large platform integration. Years ago, we began the Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) development by upgrading a traditional 155mm artillery projectile with a new fuze that adds a GPS-guided targeting capability to the standard fuze functions to introduce breakthrough levels of precision for modern artillery at a manageable cost. These innovations were necessary to adjust to a modern tactical environment to reduce collateral damage, pinpoint otherwise obscured targets and maximize effect per round to lower costs and improve operational functionality. This PGK effort is something we are proud of, as it represents our action to elevate precision as its own operational priority, while also connecting it to the significant importance of maintaining affordability for our customers. This same PGK technology has been successfully adapted to other systems such as medium caliber ammunition, enhancing existing platform life, extending the platform missions and increasing our customers’ purchasing power.
A Multi-Mission Approach to Drive Affordability
Affordability is about efficiency. It is a way to cultivate and sustain methods of maximizing the impact of dollars spent and delivering the highest possible return on investment for our customers. Of course, timely delivery of high-value systems and technologies is fundamental to this, as is the need to explore operational “overlap” efficiencies of multi-use innovations able to embrace a wide sphere of functionalities. We achieve this in large measure through flexible infrastructures and modularity by engineering new technologies with common standards such that they can accommodate upgrades and innovations as they emerge. Our multi-mission systems greatly enhance performance, streamline costs and improve long-term budget return for our customer. This enhances sustainability, preserves and upgrades the supply chain, and saves money by ensuring the longevity and upgradeability of our technologies as well as ease of integration to both existing and future platforms.
Modularity is not only critical to affordability, but it also greatly fortifies our need for advanced, secure networking across the joint forces. Networks need to be established and hardened to ensure connectivity in high-end threat environments. Information dominance is fast becoming the cornerstone of warfare preparation and ultimate success, and it is something which requires constant vigilance, maintenance and prioritization. Large platforms and datalinks are vital to ensuring weapon accuracy. When linked, these capabilities represent “nodes” in a meshed network of interconnected combat systems able to gather, process, share and distribute high-value, time sensitive information. Ensuring successful networking is something made possible through open architecture of interfaces supported by common IP protocol technical standards and an ability to “plug-and-play” new frequencies, algorithms, software upgrades and other kinds of adaptations as new technologies emerge.
"Our charge at Northrop Grumman is 'Defining Possible.' We do this by testing, challenging and breaking through seemingly impassable technological barriers."
Vice President and General Manager of Weapons Systems,
Northrop Grumman Defense Systems
Surviving ─ Domains, Missions and Regimes
Survivability of components, sub-systems, systems, weapons and host platforms is increasingly critical as threats continue to evolve and the harsh tactical environments test the bounds of innovation. Our pioneering mindset is providing solutions in ballistic, kinematic, thermal and EW hardening, observability, range and speed. We apply this spirit to the breadth of our next generation weapons portfolio from the smallest 30mm smart, guided medium caliber round to hypersonic strike missiles…and everything in between.
Harnessing Expertise to Solve Complex Problems
One of the key ways we at Northrop Grumman seek to maintain a competitive advantage is by using teamwork to adapt, adjust and “keep pace” with an ever-evolving threat. As a company, we value our intimate relationships with our customer across all agencies and domains to understand the threat landscape and work collaboratively to define architectures to address those threats. Our success relies upon our ability to synthesize research into promising future systems, maintaining and upgrading our high performing systems, and achieving this while reducing the cost burden placed upon American taxpayers. This may seem like a daunting challenge, yet we are poised and prepared to maintain our vigorous pursuit of these goals, build upon our successes and help forge and sustain a U.S. military technical, tactical and strategic advantage for years into the future.
At Northrop Grumman, we design systems of systems across the entire landscape of technological possibility, at all levels and stages of maturity, something which enables us to harness our collaborative, collective expertise across the entire enterprise to solve complex problems. We may in fact be the only ones who can truly do this from the front to the back end, a process which encompasses ISR platforms and innovations, target acquisition technologies, networking solutions and effectors or weapons and fire control for precision attack. As part of this process, we can draw upon our expanded expertise to integrate innovations across disciplines such as sensing and guidance, navigation control, propulsion or steering and weapons utilization. These elements of the Northrop portfolio, extensions of the weapon system, take on new importance and enable longer range options for today’s threat environment. We pursue, cherish and refine a “team” approach to leveraging expertise from otherwise disparate areas of technological focus.
Propelling Future Innovations
Advancements center upon a need to synergize our innovations with some of the most cutting edge, promising and emerging weapons systems such as hypersonics. We continue to sharpen our focus on improving the existing weapons while innovating for the future with a specific focus on reliability and survivability. These questions continue to take on pressing levels of importance, particularly with hypersonics as the weapons need to be able to operate at extreme, unprecedented temperatures and navigate successfully through a complex thermal and aerodynamic environment. Much of this pertains to a need to sustain hypersonic flight once it is achieved, a task which is both complex and nuanced, yet increasingly achievable. We are showing that here at Northrop Grumman.
Our charge at Northrop Grumman is “Defining Possible.” We do this by testing, challenging and breaking through seemingly impassable technological barriers. Some might think that “you can’t engineer a GPS-resilient solution for a spinning projectile,” yet we are doing that. When the superiority and survivability of our warfighters is at stake, there are no limits to where “Defining the Possible” can take us.