The military branch has declared that Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout has reached “initial operational capability,” or the minimum state it needs to enter service.
The UAV is based on the commercial Bell 407 airframe, albeit with seats and other manned avionics equipment stripped out and replaced with remote controls and extra fuel tanks.
“The MQ-8C will be equipped with an upgraded radar that allows for a larger field of view and a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a ground moving target indicator,” according to the statement. “It will deploy with [Littoral Combat Ship] in fiscal year 2021 while the MQ-8B conducts operations aboard LCS in 5th and 7th Fleets.”
More of them planned
Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designers at Northrop Grumman Corp. will build five long-range unmanned helicopters for operation from destroyers and other surface warships under terms of a $55.1 million U.S. Navy contract. The UAV helos includes two lightweight fuel cells. The manned version of the Bell 407 seats seven, can carry a useful load of 2,347 pounds, flies as fast as 140 knots, and has a range of 324 nautical miles.
As noted by the USN, the MQ-8C has flown more than 1,500 hours with in excess of 700 sorties to date. Over the next few years, Northrop Grumman will continue MQ-8C production deliveries to the Navy to complete a total of 38 aircraft.