Northrop opens Mississippi UAV production center

Published 20 April 2006

Unmanned aerial vehicles enjoy growing popularity in the military and law enforcement; four years ago Northrop Grumman broke ground for a Mississippi UAV production facility which was supposed to be 40,000 sq.ft. in size; the facility officially opened two days ago is 100,000 sq.ft.

Maybe good times are coming back to the Gulf Coast. Northrop Grumman has officially opened its Moss Point, Mississippi-based Unmanned Systems Center two days ago. The center will assemble different parts of the Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. The plant is expected to employ at least 200 people. Breaking ground for the plant took place four years ago, and it was supposed to be a 40,000-square-foot-facility. The facility opened two days ago is a 100,000-square-foot one. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, which builds Navy and Coast Guard vessels in Pascagoula, is already Mississippi’s largest private employer with more than 12,000 workers.

The Fire Scout is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV being built for the U.S. Army and Navy as primarily a surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance aircraft. Both Fire Scout and Global Hawk are flown by a preprogrammed compact disk which can be overridden by a computer operator. The Army version of Fire Scout will also contain biologic sensing devices and electronics that will allow it to detect land mines from the air. The Army UAV will also be designed to carry a weapons package.

The Navy Fire Scout will be used with the Littoral Combat Ship and the DDX destroyer that will be built by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula. Technicians and mechanics at the Unmanned Systems Center will install the wiring, electronics, and hydraulics and will perform tests on the craft before shipping it to another site for aerial testing. Center employees will assemble the fuselage of the Global Hawk, which will be shipped to Palmdale, California. West coast workers will then attach the UAV’s 133-foot wing.