The U.S. Navy has declared initial operational capability of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, which clears the way for fleet operations and training.
A sea-based, vertical lift UAS, the MQ-8C Fire Scout is designed to provide ground, air and sea forces with reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support.
“This milestone is a culmination of several years of hard work and dedication from our joint government and industry team,” says Capt. Eric Soderberg, Fire Scout program manager.
“We are excited to get this enhanced capability out to the fleet.”
Considered an endurance and payload upgrade to its predecessor, the MQ-8B, the MQ-8C variant provides up to 12 hours on station depending on payload. The UAS also incorporates the commercial Bell 407 airframe.
Built by Northrop Grumman, the Fire Scout extends the range and endurance of ship-based operations, which compliments the manned MH-60 helicopter. The UAS provides the Navy with unique situational awareness and precision target support.
To date, the MQ-8C has flown more than 1,500 hours with more than 700 sorties. Northrop Grumman will continue MQ-8C production deliveries to the Navy over the next few years so that it can complete a total of 38 aircraft.
An upgraded radar will be installed on the MQ-8C, which will allow for a larger field of view, as well as a variety of digital modes such as weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a ground moving target indicator (GMTI).
The UAS is expected to deploy with LCS in fiscal year 2021, while the MQ-8B conducts operations aboard LCS in 5th and 7th Fleets.