Northrop Grumman has received a $46.3m contract to develop, test and field demonstrate a net-centric architecture system for combat aircraft.

Under the contract, Northrop will develop the heterogeneous airborne reconnaissance team (HART) system to enhance aircraft’s awareness of battlefield environment.

HART will autonomously manage a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft and sensors, and distribute actionable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information on demand to soldiers in the field.

It will enable aircraft to use handheld computers to request full-motion video of area of interest, and retrieve the required information from a catalogue of geo-registered images or direct aircraft.

It can manage aircraft in fully autonomous mode, by fully controlling both the aircraft and its payload.

The system has also been developed to operate with larger unmanned aircraft including the Global Hawk, Predator, Fire Scout and X-47B unmanned combat air system.

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The four-year contract was awarded to Northrop by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL).