Unmanned Endurance Helicopter Readied for U.S. Navy
The U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command has declared initial operational capability of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, clearing the way for fleet operations and training.
The Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8C has flown over 1,500 hours with more than 700 sorties to date. It is expected to be deployed with the Navy's littoral combat ships in fiscal year 2021. Over the next few years, Northrop Grumman will continue MQ-8C production, ultimately delivering 38 aircraft to the Navy.
The Fire Scout complements the manned MH-60 helicopter by extending the range and endurance of ship-based operations, says the Navy. It is a sea-based, vertical lift unmanned system designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces. The MQ-8C variant is an endurance and payload upgrade to its predecessor, the MQ-8B, offering up to 12 hours on station depending on payload. It incorporates the commercial Bell 407 airframe and will be equipped with an upgraded radar that allows for a larger field of view and a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a ground moving target indicator (GMTI).
Northrop Grumman began flight tests for MQ-8C Fire Scout in September last year after the U.S. Navy completed an initial operational evaluation aboard the USS Coronado (LCS 4).