Northrop Grumman has been awarded a modification contract by the US Navy for the production and delivery of MQ-8 Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (VTUAV).
Under the $43.7m cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price contract, Northrop will supply five MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopters, which will enable ship commanders to extend their intelligence-gathering capabilities far beyond the horizon.
The company will also provide one ground control station to support the VTUAV endurance upgrade rapid deployment capability effort.
Scheduled to be completed in December 2015, work under the contract will be carried out in Texas, Alabama, California and Mississippi, US.
Northrop Grumman medium-range tactical systems vice president George Vardoulakis said that the MQ-8C Fire Scout is expected to be ready for operations by the end of 2014.
"Land-based flight tests of the system are progressing well and we're working with the navy to conduct our first ship-based flights this summer," Vardoulakis said.
The Fire Scout is a fully autonomous, four-blade, single-engine unmanned helicopter, which is capable of carrying a range of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) sensors for enhanced situational awareness.
Capable of remaining on station for more than eight hours, the aircraft supports long-duration missions and uses on-board sensors to capture full-motion video, identify targets and distribute information in real time to various users.
The extended cargo and payload capability, as well as increased endurance, enables it to deliver additional mission flexibility to commanders on the ground.
Image: A MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter stationed at a base. Photo: courtesy of Alan Radecki.