Northrop Grumman and UK-based firm Ultra have successfully demonstrated an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

During the demonstration, a modified, manned Bell 407 platform, acting as an MQ-8C Fire Scout surrogate, was fitted with Ultra sonobuoys, a receiver, and a processor.

According to Northrop, this UAS ASW mission took place in October last year and was the first time a ‘vertical take-off surrogate unmanned aerial system’ had been used for conducting a ‘large area multistatic acoustic search’.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is a next-generation UAS designed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman.

The UAS’s airframe is based on the Bell 407. It supports both land and sea-based military operations, can operate at an altitude of 16,000ft and has endurance for up to 12 hours.

It can be deployed from ground and naval platforms to perform missions including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cargo resupply, and communications relay.

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Northrop Grumman Fire Scout maritime mission expansion lead Dan Redman said: “Adding an ASW capability to Fire Scout’s existing multi-mission capabilities would further enhance this highly-versatile platform.

“This ASW capability would offer commanders flexibility to employ not only UAS systems in this particular ASW role, but also utilise the increased availability of crewed aircraft more incisively against an expanded mission set. This would increase the total available effect of the manned/unmanned teamed force mix.”

By jointly demonstrating the UAS ASW capabilities initially on an MQ-8C Fire Scout manned surrogate, Northrop and Ultra are combining their expertise with the aim of bringing ‘unique ASW solutions’ to customers across the globe.

Last year, US Navy and Northrop flight tested the MQ-8C Fire Scout fitted with the AN/ZPY-8 radar developed by Leonardo.