Company History

Nestled in the heart of Europe in southwest Germany at the base of the Black Forest, lies the university town of Freiburg. Freiburg is home to Northrop Grumman LITEF, a leader in the development and manufacture of navigation and reference systems for customers around the world.

From the founding of the company to the present, the men and women of LITEF have delivered leading edge technology inertial systems for a wide range of applications in air, land and marine environments as well as develop the skills and processes necessary to maintain and support those products to the satisfaction of a wide international customer base.

Our Past

Our company was founded in 1961 as part of an offset obligation on the part of Litton Industries following the sale of the F-104G Star Fighter aircraft to Germany. The primary nature of the offset was the licensed production and support of the LN-3 inertial navigation system (INS) for the F-104G aircraft. To reflect both the name of our then parent company and our location, we were established as Litton Technische Werke Freiburg, which is German for Litton Technical Works Freiburg - LITEF GmbH for short.

Five years later, a significant milestone occurred when LITEF began the development of gyroscopes and accelerometers for the PL-41 ship inertial navigation system (SINS). Then, in 1971, LITEF was awarded the contract for the development of the central onboard computer for the Tornado aircraft, marking the company’s entry into the world of advanced computer technology. Upgrades and support of that computer continue through the present time.

The development of strapdown technology ushered in a new technological age in 1976 with the start of the development of the K-273, a dynamically balanced, dry tuned gyroscope for strapdown applications. In 1980, the development of the B-280 accelerometer followed, providing the ideal complement to the K-273 gyro. The first system application for these strapdown sensors was the LTR-81 attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) for commercial aircraft.

In 1983, LITEF began development of the fiber-optic gyro (FOG) and, in 1989, became the first company in the world to successfully flight test a FOG-equipped AHRS of ARINC 705 performance. The first production FOG AHRS—the LCR-92—was delivered in 1992 to the launching customer, Pilatus.

The introduction of a new family of small single axis FOG sensors (µFORS) came in 1993 and, the family of FOG land navigation systems for Army applications was launched. The development of higher accuracy FOG sensors in the late 1990s led to the introduction of the FOG Gyrocompass LFK-95 for marine applications. The manufacture of these FOG products continues today.

In 1989 and 1990, LITEF won contracts for the development and manufacture of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a number of onboard computers and other equipment for the new Eurofighter aircraft program. Several of these products are still being manufactured.

The start of the new millennium was also the start of two new chapters in LITEF’s history. In 2001, Northrop Grumman Corporation, acquired Litton Industries and LITEF began development of micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) gyros.

Our Present
With a workforce of approx. 550, our present operation, which changed its name to Northrop Grumman LITEF GmbH (NG LITEF) in 2008, comprises the continuing manufacture and support of products already developed for air, land and marine applications as well as the ongoing development and manufacture of products incorporating our latest leading edge technologies.

The Freiburg facility covers a total area of 202,600 square feet which encompasses office, manufacturing and warehouse space as well as engineering and test labs and clean and super clean rooms.

Several key technologies underpin the products being developed and manufactured:

- Closed loop inertial sensors
- Dry tuned gyros
- Fiber-optic gyros
- MEMS gyros
- Mechanical accelerometers
- MEMS accelerometers
- High speed digital/analog electronics and ASICS (Application Specific Integrated Circuits)
- Integrated optics

Our technologies and products serve military and civilian customers around the globe in applications and platforms that include:

Attitude and heading reference units and flight control data concentrators for airborne civil applications. NG LITEF’s systems are on board Airbus, Antonov, Sikorsky, Bell, Agusta, Learjet, T-6A, Cessna, Bombardier, MD Helicopter, Pilatus and others regional jets, business jets and helicopters.

Hybrid navigation systems, stabilization and reference systems and vehicle electronics for Army applications. Armored vehicles equipped with our systems include Leopard 2 MBT, USMC Avenger, Leclerc Main Battle Tank, BMP-3, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Korean Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Boxer, Pandur and Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicles and others.

Inertial navigation systems, attitude and heading reference systems, inertial measurement units and computer and Interface units for airborne military applications. Platforms include the F-4, Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft, and various missiles as Taurus, Meteor, IRIS-T, RBS-15, Harm, and Bamse.

Navigation systems, reference systems and naval data management systems for naval applications. Systems are on board U212, Scorpene and Mart submarines as well as frigates, corvettes, mine hunters and other vessels worldwide.

NG LITEF is currently a world leader in FOG systems. From 1993 to 2014, we have produced and delivered more than 130,000 FOG axes to customers including:

- more than 16,000 commercial AHRS of the LCR-family for helicopters and business jets

- more than 4,500 land navigation systems of the LLN-family for tanks and infantry fighting vehicles

- more than 2,200 marine gyrocompass systems for civil and military vessels

- more than 65,000 rate sensors of the µFORS family, partially integrated in IMUs, for missiles and weapon stabilization

Our present work also includes the ongoing development of our FOG and MEMS sensors for integration in products that are world leaders in their specific applications as well as the continued development and manufacture of certain non-FOG or MEMS products.

The Freiburg site is the Northrop Grumman “Center of Excellence” for MEMS development and production and a leading company in Europe for high accuracy MEMS sensors. With MEMS accelerometers in production since 1995, we are in the final phase of development of a tactical grade 6-axes MEMS IMU using a highly innovative design for the MEMS gyro. This gyro will have a low bias even in the harsh environment of high vibration and acoustic noise in missiles and helicopters.

Besides IRAD funding, we enjoy funding from the German government and also collaborate with various universities and institutes.

Our Future
We know that our future depends upon our ability to continue to develop, refine and integrate key technologies into products that are world leaders in their class and to stay abreast of and adapt accordingly to the ever-changing marketplace.

Technology Growth

FOG and MEMS technology will be two major expansion areas for us over the next few years. With our planned development of ITAR-free FOG systems into a higher accuracy range, we will be able to serve customers worldwide with a line of products from lower tactical grade to inertial reference system (IRS) grade systems for civil and military applications in the air, on land and at sea.