Defense contractor Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) this week announced that its new AN/AAQ-37 Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (DAS) has successfully demonstrated the ability to detect hostile weapons fire from targets on the ground.

Specifically, while being flown aboard Northrop's BAC-1-11 test aircraft, the DAS detected and pinpointed the locations of tanks firing live rounds on the ground "from an operationally significant distance."

Northrop describes this DAS as a system for providing "passive spherical awareness" to pilots of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet -- for which it was designed -- "detecting and tracking aircraft and missiles in every direction simultaneously, providing visual imagery for day or night navigation and targeting purposes ... [and relaying] key battlespace information to ground forces and other aircraft autonomously."

Mark Rossi, Northrop Grumman's DAS business area director, said that while the DAS was developed with the F-35 specifically in mind, "the system is applicable and scalable to a wide range of manned and unmanned platforms and missions, including Global Hawk, Predator and fourth generation fighter aircraft" -- which would include everything from Lockheed's F-16 fighter jet, for example, to Boeing's F/A-18 and F-15 fighter-bombers.