US Navy receives first upgraded Fire Scout
Northrop Grumman has delivered the first MQ-8C upgraded Fire Scout UAV to the US Navy, the company announced on 19 July.
The upgraded VTOL UAV was received by the navy in preparation for upcoming ground and flight testing, which will be conducted at the Naval Air Systems Command test range. Prior to conducting its first flight, ground testing will be carried out to ensure that the UAV works correctly and communicates with the GCS.
‘The endurance upgrade doubles the time on station of the MQ-8 system and will help reduce the workload for the ship’s crew by cutting the number of times the crew will need to be in flight quarters,’ said George Vardoulakis, VP of medium tactical systems for Northrop Grumman, in a company statement.
The upgraded Fire Scout will have increased endurance and a 30% greater ranger than the previous design, according to the company. The new system uses a commercial Bell 407 airframe with modified controls to meet the US Navy requirement.
Under a rapid development effort the US Navy plans to procure 30 upgraded aircraft, and Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to produce 14. The first deployment of the system is scheduled for 2014.
The MQ-8C is an upgraded version of the MQ-8B which is currently being used by the US Navy, which operates on navy frigates and is operational in Afghanistan.
This milestone for the Fire Scout programme follows the news that the MQ-8B was integrated with BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) in September 2012, although it is unclear at present whether the MQ-8C Fire Scout will also be integrated with the weapon.
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