Northrop Grumman has commenced flight tests for the US Navy’s MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.
The newest autonomous aircraft has been designed to provide enhanced speed, endurance and payload capacity to the US Navy’s distributed maritime operations.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is manufactured and tested at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point production facility at the Trent Lott International Airport in Mississippi, US.
Northrop Grumman Fire Scout programme director Melissa Packwood said: “Building on Northrop Grumman’s recent announcement of new production capabilities in Moss Point and a 40% increase in employment at the site, the ability to now conduct MQ-8C Fire Scout flight tests where the production occurs will bring new efficiencies and effectiveness to our local operations and improve our ability to serve the US Navy.’
In June, the navy completed the first comprehensive initial operational test and evaluation for the unmanned helicopter on board the service’s Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado.
Conducted together with the US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1), USS Coronado carried out simulated engagements to evaluate MQ-8C ‘s ability in target identification, intelligence gathering, and surface warfare operations.
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Developed as an upgraded version of the Bell 407 helicopter, the Northrop-built helicopter has carried out more than 1,500 programme flight hours to date.
Fire Scout is an autonomous helicopter system that provides real-time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target-acquisition, as well as laser designation, and battle management capabilities to tactical users without depending on manned aircraft or space-based assets.
Capable of being deployed from both ground and naval platforms, the MQ-8C Fire Scout is a next-generation unmanned air system that has been designed to support land and sea-based military operations.