The US Navy's Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has successfully conducted its final developmental test flight from Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, US.
During the flight test, which was conducted on 29 April, the new, larger unmanned helicopter met all of its performance objectives.
The aircraft will now be prepared to begin operational testing, which will be planned by Northrop and carried out aboard an US Navy's littoral combat ship (LCS) later this year.
Northrop Grumman Fire Scout strategy and business development manager Thomas Twomey was quoted by Flightglobal as saying: "We're really proud of the fact that we could get through the flight tests successfully with only minor changes.
"Throughout all of the tests, we were at least 115% above the navy's test threshold requirement. We greatly exceeded the navy's expectation."
Capable of performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the US navy, the system has so far flown 327 flights and logged more than 450 hours since its first flight on 31 October 2013.
In December 2014, the unmanned helicopter successfully completed the debut flight on the navy's guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109).
The MQ-8C is a vertical take-off and landing UAV, which is an upgraded version of the existing MQ-8B Fire Scout. It aims to provide navy ship commanders with improved range of up to 30% and endurance capabilities.
With a range of 150nm and a payload capacity of more than 700lb, initial operating capability for the MQ-8C is planned for 2016.
Image: An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu. Photo: US Navy courtesy of Northrop Grumman/Released.