Northrop will showcase Project Scion technology payloads for unmanned ships

SAN DIEGO — Northrop Grumman said it will participate in two events to demonstrate the autonomy and electronic warfare payloads the company is developing for unmanned surface ships as part of its Project Scion initiative.

In East Coast trials in December, one supplied by Martac and equipped by Northrop ship T38 autonomously tracked, tracked, and tracked a target moving in the Chesapeake Bay.

Now, company officials told C4ISRNET, the energy has shifted to preparing Project Scion products for action at the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International’s Xponential 2024 in California in April, as well as the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division’s Silent Swarm in Michigan on July. The former focuses on cooperative autonomy and applications beyond national security, the latter on electromagnetic warfare and digital deception.

“We’ve been working since December, the two months since the demo, to take those next steps,” Dennis Grignon, director of business development at Northrop, said in an interview. “We did this on a single platform, but we could reduce our package a very small USVso we can repeat it.”

The experimentation and investment in the Virginia-based company comes amid growing interest by the US Navy and Coast Guard in unmanned technologies.

Former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday has sought a hybrid fleet, with an update to his so-called Naval Plan that puts 373 manned ships working with 150 unmanned vessels. The Coast Guard similarly released an unmanned road map last year. Describe a force augmented with robotic aids, ready to tackle illegal activity and domestic threats.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department in August launched the Replicator initiative, intended to field thousands of unmanned systems in 18-24 months to overcome China’s perceived mass.

Project Scion brings together technologies from other fields, such as aerial drones, ground robotics and smart buoys, to produce payloads that can turn the platforms into “real combat and surveillance systems for our customers,” according to Grignon.

Northrop, which is exhibiting its technology at the Navy West conference this week in San Diego, makes the Fire Scout autonomous helicopter, the Triton unmanned aerial system and more.

“The flexibility with the payload allows us to program it for multiple missions,” he said. “It’s part of a larger need to do more with fewer resources, and that’s the gap we’re trying to fill here.”

Manpower, expertise and other resources will be strained in the future battles for which US defense leaders are seeking. A war with China in the Indo-Pacific would put severe pressure on Navy ships, sailors and their logistics chains.

Robotic ships could act as eyes, ears, supply shuttles even firepower where they would otherwise be missing.

“We take the data, process it and analyze it, and then take action on that data, based on the commander’s intent,” Matt O’Driscoll, Northrop’s chief engineer for marine systems and integration, said of Project Scion and in December. trial.

“The operators on our boats were just cameras,” he added. “But in the future, that could be anything from an electronic attack, like jamming, or a cyberattack, or it could be kinetic with a human in the loop.”

The development and deployment of semi-autonomous or fully autonomous weapons is governed by what is known as directive 3000.09, originally signed a decade ago and updated last year. The DoD directive is intended to reduce the risks of autonomy and weapons failure. It does not apply to cyberspace.

Northrop is the world’s third-largest defense contractor when ranked by revenue, according to Top 100 Defense News analysis. It made $32.4 billion in 2022 and $31.4 billion in 2021.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration – specifically Cold War decommissioning and nuclear weapons development – ​​for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award winning photographer.

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