The US Navy and Northrop Grumman are flight testing the MQ-8C Fire Scout fitted with the AN/ZPY-8 radar developed by Leonardo.

The unmanned helicopter with the radar conducted its first flight in February this year out of Webster Outlying Field, Maryland, US.

Ground tests were conducted prior to the maiden flight. The tests continue while the navy and Northrop Grumman consider expansion opportunities for the platform.

The company has so far delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the US Navy. All vehicles will be upgraded to include the AN/ZPY-8 radar.

Northrop Grumman tactical autonomous systems programme manager Melissa Packwood said: “The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets.

“The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports US Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements. This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements.”

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In June 2019, the MQ-8C achieved its initial operational capability. The first deployment is scheduled in 2021.

Last month, Northrop Grumman secured a contract from the US Navy for Lot Nine Full-Rate Production (FRP) of the AGM-88E advanced anti-radiation guided missile (AARGM).

Under the $165m contract, the company will produce all-up round missiles and captive air training missiles for the US Navy and foreign military sales.

In February this year, the US Marine Corps (USMC) awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman for two additional AN/TPS-80 ground/air task-oriented radar (G/ATOR) systems.

The G/ATOR systems are part of the full-rate production Lot 2, secured by the company in December last year.